Page 27 - OHS, May 2020
P. 27

more common allergens, such as pollen. Over time, failing to iden- tify the actual source of the condition can lead to chronic mani- festations of the disease including lung fibrosis. It is subsequently important that potential exposures are identified.
Recognition. In considering the difficulties faced by an indi- vidual who suffers from hypersensitivity pneumonitis, it is impor- tant for employers to do what they can to both recognize the pos- sibility of exposure in the workplace and to help to mitigate such exposures. A first step in identifying the potential of exposure is to consider possible sources of allergens.
Generally speaking, hypersensitivity pneumonitis results from respirable particles that get into the alveolar regions of the lung that are of biological origin such as fungal spores, or plant and animal proteins. Some well-known examples that have been identified over the years include farmer’s lung from various mold and bacte- rial spores from moldy hay, humidifier lung from various bacterial and fungal spores that are abundant in stagnant water, laboratory worker’s lung originating from proteins in rodent urine, cheese worker’s lung, malt worker’s lung, wood worker’s lung and bird fancier’s lung.
Prevention. In order to prevent this condition, it is impor- tant to recognize the possibility of occurrence. This can be done by determining if employees are exposed to organic dusts when performing their jobs or if microbial habitat is present that might result in biological activity. Speaking to frontline workers could
provide insights as well to determine if any signs or symptoms con- sistent with the condition are exhibited by any employees. Ideally, it would be best to have an industrial hygienist or other appropriately trained health professional involved in the evaluation process. This evaluation may include verbal employee screening, medical evalu- ations, and air contaminant sampling. Maintaining local ventila- tion systems to capture dust at the source can also be a big help in preventing exposure as can separating employees from potential exposures.
Airborne particulate matter in the workplace continues to pose a significant health risk for many occupations. OSHA has developed standards and permissible exposure levels for a number of high- risk particulates and has also established exposure levels for both the total and respirable fraction of non-specific airborne particu- lates.
These exposure levels do not take into account unique situa- tions such as airborne particulates that may be prevalent in various workplaces that can cause an allergic response in specific individu- als. Efforts should be made to evaluate worker health and prevent opportunities for exposure.
Dan Corcoran serves as program director for environmental safety and health programs at Columbia Southern University.
MAY 2020 | Occupational Health &4/S3a/2f0ety9:42 AM23
Circle 16 on card.

   25   26   27   28   29