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Respiratory and Hearing Protection

Respiratory illnesses are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and third all over the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2007. There are many industrial chemical products and factors that can contribute to both acute and chronic lung inflammation. One of the most common types of lung inflammation is acute and chronic chemical pneumonitis. This causes lung tissues to swell due to fluids that move in its air spaces, making the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange difficult to take place. Usually, this would result in difficulty of breathing, chest pain and in severe cases, death.

Here are some inhaled substances that can trigger acute chemical pneumonitis:

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Fumes from pesticides, welding metals, solvent mixtures and sulfuric acid

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Chlorine gas from cleaning products

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Fertilizer dust, cement dust

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Smoke

Unlike acute chemical pnuemonitis, chronic chemical pneumonitis develops after the worker has been exposed to low levels of irritants over a prolonged period of time. Miners are prone to developing chronic chemical pneumonitis (fibrosis or scarring of lung tissues) due to constant asbestos exposure. Death usually follows if this condition remains untreated.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), about 5 million workers in the 1.3 million workplaces in the United States are required to wear respirators. The respirators are worn to protect the workers from various hazards that can cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases and death. Respiratory hazards can be identified as insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dust, smoke, gases, fog, mist, vapors and sprays.

These are some approved equipment that complies with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard:

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The N95 Respirator - this is used in hot and humid workplaces and outdoors. This is ideal for working in dusty environments to protect against sand, cement, powder, metal fillings, dirt, mold and dust.

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The P100 Respirator - this is used to filter out oil and non-oil particulate matter in places such as oil storage facilities, chemical industries and pharmaceutical laboratories. This is also flame-retardant to protect the face from sudden fire blasts.

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The N100 Respirator - this is used to protect the lungs from constant exposure to aerosols and chemical sprays.

Respiratory protection is addressed in standards specifically for the shipyard employment, marine terminal, long-shoring and construction industries. Compliance with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard could lessen the impact of work-related lung illnesses annually.

Another important physical aspect that workers need to protect from workplace hazards is their hearing. There are industries that involve tasks contributing to their workers' hearing loss. Using explosives and heavy machinery can reduce a person's hearing ability.

The inner ear is very sensitive to loud vibrations. This is also where the balance center of the brain is. If a person gets hit on the side of his head or hears a very loud blast, chances are he will become disoriented and dazed. Hearing loss is a probability when a worker has too much noise exposure. That's why OSHA has regulated the use of proper Hearing Protection for workplace sounds exceeding 115dB.

Hearing protection equipment, such as industrial earplugs, is used as a medium to protect the ears from constant occupational noise. These are safe and convenient to use whenever they are needed. These protect the workers' hearing from disruptive impacts of machine noise and explosions inside the workplace.

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