Michigan Lung and Critical Care MLCC sleep lab Grand Blanc Sleep Apnea Gregory Streff Mark Rittenger Pradeep Ramachandran

Occupational Lung Disease

Occupational lung disease is an umbrella term that covers several lung disorders caused by extended exposure to irritating or toxic substances which cause acute or chronic respiratory problems.

Causes, incidence & risk factors
Smoking may act as a synergist (helper) to increase the severity of these diseases. Types of occupational lung disease include (but are not limited to):

  • Occupational asthma
  • Asbestosis – a progressive disease of the lung involving scarring of the lung tissue as a result of exposure to the microscopic fibers of asbestos
  • Mesothelioma – A rare cancer of the lining of the chest caused by asbestos exposure.
  • Byssinosis (brown lung disease) – A chronic condition of the lungs involving the small airways and resulting in severely impaired lung function that is caused by exposure to dust from hemp, flax and cotton processing.
  • Coal-workers pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) – A condition of the lungs in which inhaled coal dust becomes imbedded in the lungs and causes them to harden, making breathing very difficult.
  • Silicosis – A condition in which scar tissue form in the lungs as a result of exposure to free crystalline silica in mines, foundries, blasting operations, stone, clay and glass manufacturing. This condition also significantly raises the risk of tuberculosis.
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis – A lung condition that results from repeated exposure to fungal spores from moldy hay, bird droppings, or other organic dusts causing the air sacs in the lungs to be come inflamed and scar tissue to form.


  • Shortness of breath on exertion
  • Cough
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chest pain
  • Additional symptoms that may be present
  • Nail changes
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever
  • Fatigue


  • Chest x-ray
  • Pulmonary functions tests
  • Complete blood count
  • Labs specific for each condition
  • High-resolution CT scan of the chest
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Video-assisted or open lung biopsy

Treatment is cause specific, but the main goal is to avoid further exposure to the causative environment, if possible. A change in occupations may be required if future worksite exposure is unavoidable.


9450 S. Saginaw Street, Suite EGrand Blanc, Michigan 48439Telephone 810.695.4000FAX 810.695.4055