November 15, 2023



The 15th November 2023 marks World COPD Awareness Day.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a respiratory disease affecting the lungs and is a group of such diseases including Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis.  These conditions make it difficult to breathe and get enough oxygen to the lungs.

COPD affects millions of people all over the world and the awareness day was set up to raise awareness and improve the prevention and management of the condition.

Symptoms to look out for include:-

• Shortness of breath

• Persistent chesty cough with phlegm

• Re-occurring chest infections

• Wheezing

It is found that symptoms gradually worsen with time and you may not know that you have the condition for a number of years.  People suffering from COPD sometimes have flare ups of their symptoms  which can be more common in the winter months.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD however there is treatment available and the sooner you seek medical assistance, the sooner you can start treatment to help reduce the risks of any severe lung damage.

Causes of COPD can include exposure to some types of dust and chemicals which may be present in the workplace including:-

• Grain and flour dust, present in workplaces such as bakeries.

• Silica dust. This is present in sand, rock, stone and clay and is often produced in construction work in tasks of cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing.  Stone masons and Sand Blasters may be particularly at risk from this exposure.

• Coal dust, many ex-miners were prone to suffer from COPD.

• Isocyanates.  These are highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals widely used in manufacturing flexible and rigid foams, fibres and coatings including paints and varnishes. These products are used for autobody repairs and building insulation materials. Spray-on polyurethane products may also contain isocyanates, these are in a wide range of products, including protective coatings for truck beds, trailers, boats, foundations, and decks Cadmium dust and fumes.  These are soft, blue-white solid, grey-black metal or grey or white powder, used in silver solder for making batteries and metal plating, plastics and pigments.

Some of the above occupations and substances can also be linked to other diseases, for example Occupational Asthma.

Under the Health & Safety at Work Act, an Employer has a duty of care to it’s Employees to protect them from harmful substances in the workplace.  Employers should provide personal protective equipment to their Employees and should undertake regular health monitoring.

If you think you may be suffering from a respiratory disease, then contact your GP for medical advice.  

If you wish to discuss whether your condition may be caused by your workplace , then please contact Sarah Tagg at Norrie Waite & Slater Solicitors on 0114 2766166.