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What is an occupational illness?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2020 | Workers' Compensation |

Nearly every employee in America faces certain occupational hazards, and some carry more risks than others. An occupational illness is something you develop after continued exposure to a physical, biological or chemical hazard in the workplace.

How common are occupational illnesses, and what are some of the most prevalent ones affecting today’s workforce?

Statistics about occupational illnesses

Per the American Family Physician, it is tough to know exactly how common occupational illnesses are because so many workers who experience them never report them. Estimates indicate that workers never report about 70% of occupational illnesses.

However, in 2013, there were about 3 million nonfatal occupational illnesses experienced by American workers. The costs associated with treating occupational illnesses are also staggering. In 2007, expenses associated with nonfatal occupational illnesses totaled about $67 billion and have likely risen in the years since.

Common occupational illnesses

The risks you face with regard to occupational illnesses vary based on your industry, among other factors. Some are more common than others. Occupational asthma, for example, is the most common lung disorder experienced by workers in industrialized countries.

Breathing in certain substances over time, such as certain metals, chemicals or enzymes, may increase your risk of developing work-related asthma. If you suffer this condition, you are likely to experience the same symptoms as others with asthma, such as wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing.

Occupational musculoskeletal disorders are also common among the American workforce. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one such disorder. You may face a higher risk of developing it if you work in an environment where you perform the same task many times. If you earn your living as an assembly line worker, a cashier or a hairstylist, among other professions, you have a greater chance of experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome.

The impact of occupational illnesses

Occupational illnesses can do more than hinder your ability to work. They may also cost you considerable money due to lost wages and medical care, as well as have a significant impact on your quality of life.