With over 18,000 reported work related breathing issues a year, the severity of dust and pollutants in the workplace is increasing rapidly. Air quality is an important factor of the workplace when it comes to health and safety. A reduction in air quality has caused approximately 12,000 deaths a year. The question is, what can be done to reduce this figure?

In this article we take a look at some of the most common health conditions associated to breathing. We delve into what causes these conditions and also what can be done to reduce cases.


Asthma is a very common types lung condition, which is reported by workers. The top 5 causes of asthma are due to Isocyanates, flour, cleaning products, wood dust and enzymes. If you are around any of these hazards you should consider using the correct safety equipment to prevent this.

Asbestos related injuries

Asbestos has become recognised as a dangerous substance over the last 20 years. The increased awareness of the dangers of asbestos has helped us to identify and protect it. Asbestos still contributes to 20% of workplace deaths related to lung diseases. Protecting against asbestos requires items such as specialised respirators and disposable clothing.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Although COPD cases have been decreasing over the last few years, the problem still exists. Most cases of COPD are caused from dusts such as grains and silica, fumes and chemicals such as welding fume, isocyanates, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

“Regularly breathing in dusts or pollutants at work can lead to life changing or terminal lung diseases. Activities such as cutting stone, concrete or wood with power tools, working with flour, welding and chemical spraying can release harmful agents. These are often invisible to the naked eye. Inhaled pollutants can lead to a variety of lung diseases, including asthma, COPD, Silicosis, Lung Cancer and mesothelioma. Dust can build up gradually over time, with the effects not being always immediately obvious. Unfortunately, by the time you feel the effects the damage to your lungs may already be serious, and difficult to reverse.”

What Items can I use to protect myself?

There are many types of products designed to protect the lungs and breathing. Respiratory protection products are included in the RPE category. RPE stands for respiratory protective equipment. RPE is a group of products designed to reduce exposure to harmful airborne hazards.

These hazards can be anything from dusty powders to solvents.

The main types of products included in RPE are respirators and filters. Respirators usually come in two forms, valved and non-valved. Both of these respirators are designed for different levels of uses, with the non-valved respirators only intended for temporary disposable uses. Non-valved respirators restrict the airflow make it harder to breathe, whereas valved respirators tend to increase breathability.

Gas and particle filters are designed to fit on existing face masks. These filters are intended to block out potentially harmful gases, vapours or particles from entering the lungs. These can be found in the RPE category.

Statistics Source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/respiratory-diseases.htm