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The Five Worst Jobs for the Health of Your Lungs




Behind the consistent pounding of the heart, no organ does more hard work than your lungs, as the average adult takes over 20,000 breaths a day. However, how well your lungs actually work might just depend on what you do for work.

Tobacco smoke, dirt, chemicals, germs, dust, fibers, and a whole host of things you might never even consider can cause serious damage to the health of your lungs and airway. Environmental and occupational exposure can lead to a number of serious, long-term health issues with your lungs, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, scarring, infection, and even cancer.

Fortunately, the majority of the dangers faced by your lungs on-the-job are preventable. By wearing protective equipment, improving ventilation, working safely, and learning more about potential hazards faced while at work, you can have a major impact on your job safety.

Here are five professions where taking a few precautions may help you avoid suffering permanent lung damage.

Waiting Tables and Bartending

An overwhelming amount of scientific evidence clearly illustrates the link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. Individuals who work service industry jobs in cities that have yet to pass comprehensive smoking bans remain at risk of excessive and prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke.

Even in cities that have banned smoking at bars and restaurants, casino workers can still find themselves suffocating in a cloud of smoke while on the job.

Unfortunately, wearing a respirator isn’t an option while working in these types of jobs, and there’s no way to effectively separate smokers from nonsmokers in these kinds of work environments. For individuals worried about exposure to secondhand smoke, their best might be to find other employment opportunities.


A large number of cleaning products, even the ones that advertise as being “green” or “natural,” contain dangerous chemicals that have been linked to the development of asthma in studies.

Household cleaning products work as reactive chemical agents, meaning they react with your lung tissue in the same way they react to dirt, grease, and grim. Certain brands release organic compounds that have a volatile effect of lung tissue, causing allergic reactions and chronic respiratory problems.

For housekeepers to reduce their risk of exposure, they should consider using simple cleaning agents, such as baking soda or vinegar and water. Housekeepers should also make sure areas they clean stay well ventilated by opening a window or turning on a fan.

Health Care

Hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and any other kind of health care center exists to aid the sick and infirm. Where there is an illness, germs will always follow. Despite the efforts made to keep medical environments sterile, it’s nearly impossible for health care professionals not to breathe in germs and other types of bacteria. Over time, this exposure can have an accumulative effect, as studies have shown that individuals who work in the health care industry have a higher risk of developing lung diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, and severe acute respiratory syndrome.

In order to keep health workers healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent recommends that health care workers maintain their immunizations.


Considering their use, it’s surprising that a number of hair-coloring products can cause occupational asthma. Additionally, some salon products, such as hair straighteners, contain formaldehyde, a potent irritant of the eyes, nose, and throat, and a known carcinogen.

These types of chemicals make it important that hairstylists work in a well-ventilated space. Stylists should also determine what types of chemicals the products they work with content, and potentially consider finding safer alternatives to use.


Construction workers who destroy old buildings or perform remodeling work can frequently receive asbestos exposure, which was commonly used to insulate pipes and ceiling tiles prior to the discovery of the compound’s cancerous effects.

Studies have found that even small dose exposure to asbestos fibers are linked to a number of respiratory issues, such as the cancer mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos can also increase a person’s risk of developing lung scarring and cancer.

To avoid this type of exposure, construction crews should take precautions by wearing respirators when working near asbestos or leave the removal of the compound to licensed and trained crews.