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Occupational Lung Disease


The term occupational lung disease (also known as work-related lung disease), covers a wide variety of lung conditions which are caused by breathing in dust, fumes, gases or other hazardous agents in the work environment. 

What are occupational lung diseases?

These diseases vary greatly in their nature, depending on the hazardous agent and protective measures implemented to reduce or manage exposure. They may be acute or chronic, malignant or non-malignant, or infectious.

The full scale and impact of occupational lung diseases in Australia is still unknown, although the numbers are increasing. The significant growing cases of silicosis and Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis (CWP) over the last 15 years is particularly concerning.

Types of occupational lung diseases

There are many different occupational lung diseases. Common types include:

  • Pneumoconiosis, which includes the following:
    • Asbestosis
    • Silicosis
    • Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Mesothelioma
  • Work-related asthma
  • Occupational lung infections.

They are caused by a wide range of hazardous agents, including but not limited to dusts, fibres, fumes and gases.

Depending on the type of hazardous agent a patient is exposed to, symptoms may develop immediately or present months, years or decades after exposure. With many occupational lung diseases, symptoms may only present long after exposure to the hazardous agent has stopped, or even after retirement from the workforce.

Symptoms of occupational lung diseases

Depending on the type of occupational lung disease, symptoms will vary. Some patients may even be asymptomatic. Generally, symptoms are vague and characteristic of other lung diseases. Common symptoms of occupational lung diseases include:


           Shortness of breath – after activity or while sitting / at rest

           Chest tightness


Any patients with known exposure to occupational hazards and experiencing any of the above symptoms should be investigated immediately.

Enrol Now: Accredited Occupational Lung Disease eLearning

Complete this form to gain access to the free, self-paced training, Introduction to occupational lung disease advanced course.

Health professional type
Health professional type: AH - Pharmacy
Health professional type: Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker
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Health professional type: Doctor - GP
Health professional type: Doctor- specialist
Health professional type: Nurse
Health professional type: Researcher
*Please note, if you are enrolling in this training to claim CPD points, we will need your AHPRA and RACGP registration numbers to verify your completion with RACGP.
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