What is an Occupational Disease? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson defines the term occupational disease for you. Then you'll cover eight different examples of occupational diseases and the lines of work they may be associated with.

Occupational Disease Definition

For some of us, the worst that can happen at work is a papercut. Yeah, it's stinks. But it's really not that bad. For other people, however, their work poses a serious danger to their health. In fact, they may develop an occupational disease as a result of it. An occupational disease is broadly seen as any disorder that develops in a person primarily as a result of exposure to risk factors within his or her line of work.

The list of occupational diseases is literally many pages long and so we can't cover them all in this lesson. However, you'll get a good idea of their wide variety.

Lungs, Hearing, Viruses, & Cancer

To learn a bit about some of these occupational diseases we're going to meet quite a few people in this lesson.

Bob has coal worker's pneumoconiosis, a disorder that occurs as a result of the accumulation coal dust in the lungs. Bob tells us that he has this disorder because he was a coal miner for many years and coal mining is a definite risk factor for this occupational disease. Because of this disorder, Bob has difficulty breathing and sometimes he coughs up black sputum too!

Pneumoconiosis seen in coal workers
Coal workers pneumoconiosis

Jack has lost a lot of his hearing. Hearing loss can be an occupational disorder as well, even if we don't tend to think of it as a typical 'disease' per se. Jack has hearing loss because he's worked in construction for his whole life without adequate ear protection. Jack also has lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, as a result of his construction duties.

Roberta contracted a potentially deadly disease, known as rabies. Why? She was working with a rabid animal in her role as an animal control officer. She got bit and got infected with the rabies virus. Luckily she got vaccinated for it afterwards and survived!

Madeline has leukemia, a type of cancer that affects blood-forming areas of the body, such as the bone marrow. It leads to an inadequate number of important blood components, such as white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Madeline worked in a plant that manufactured benzene, a known carcinogen that can lead to leukemia. Benzene has been linked to other problems in people exposed to high amounts of it, such as bone marrow depression and anemia.

War, Skin, Bacteria, & Poisoning

Alex was recently diagnosed with PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. He had some horrific experiences in fighting on the front lines of a war that led to this condition.

Nancy recently had a terrible instance where her skin turned very red, began to ooze a clear liquid, and was very painful to the touch. The cause was a case of irritant contact dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin as a result of an irritant, like an acid or detergent. In her case, the cause was a chemical that spilled on her skin while she was working.

Megan was recently working around very sick horses as a horse caretaker and developed glanders, a type of bacterial infection. One particular form of this condition is commonly fatal if left untreated.

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