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“Breathing Room” – Protection against Invisible Work Hazards

There are some jobs that you know are high risk: firefighting, construction work, military service. What people don’t realize is that some jobs can put you at risk for microscopic toxic substances that damage the respiratory system, silently yet steadily, and by the time you’ve discovered that you’re sick, you’re already been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Look at the odds: 150,000 people develop lung cancer a year, and 15% of those are from people who had been exposed to chemical substances (asbestos, silica dust, radon, and environmental pollutants) while they were at work. If you are in any of the following occupations, you should take out disability insurance. It gives the assurance that if you do get sick because of your job, and have to take weeks and months off for treatment, you’ll be properly prepared. In fact, disability insurance will often replace up to 80% of your gross income, tax-free. It’s money when you need it most—when medical bills are high, and you no longer have your job to pay them.

Shipbuilders are exposed to fiberglass, which have been linked to a higher incidence of cancer. While most manufacturers insist that they’re safe, lab tests and statistics say otherwise. In fact, this evidence has been available for over twenty years, but no laws monitor exposure to fiberglass materials. Some shipbuilders are also exposed to asbestos, another toxic substance that has been banned by some countries.

Asbestos was used in pipe insulation, making pipefitters (especially those who have been working on it before the 1980’s) at risk for asbestos inhalation. Asbestos clings to the lungs, causing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Pipe fitters are also at high risk to benzene exposure. Benzene is a carcinogen that has been linked to lung cancer. The same problem plagues anyone who has worked in any job related to insulation.

Tile workers who mount ceiling and floor tiles and other shock-absorbing materials are exposed to high levels of dust. This can cause respiratory diseases, asthma, and lung cancer. The dust can also irritate the eye and skin, and make it susceptible to infections.

Welders and Refinery Workers are exposed everyday to a toxic mix of carcinogens like benzene, poisonous fibers, and gases. This profession has a high rate of reported cases of cancer, aside from physical injuries that can result from working with very sharp objects and hot metals. Sanders face the same problem, inhaling silica dust and noxious fumes. These gases can all scar the lungs, and trigger mesothelioma and lung cancer. Protective gear helps, but since the substances are in the air and are not fully filtered out, just breathing puts you at risk.

You may love your job, or you may not have the option to quit. However, you need a safety net. Since you are exposed to known chemical hazards (even if you can’t see them) it is necessary to take out disability insurance so you or your family will not suffer from financial problems if and when you do get sick.

About the Author: Philip Nicosia is the webmaster of an online resource centre covering many topics including disability insurance.

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