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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Could Lung Damage Be from Weaving Fiberglass?

05/08/2009

Question:

I am a 50 year old woman on oxygen 24/7. When I was 17, I had to have an emergency operation and they were afraid to do the operation because I had bronchitis so bad. They had to do it anyway and it took awhile to recover but all was fine. I was working in a factory at the time weaving fiberglass. I worked there for several years. When in my mid 30`s I was having a lot of breathing problems and was told I had COPD/Asthma. By the time I was 40, it was very hard for me to do a lot of things because of shortness of breath. I`ve been on oxygen for about 7 years now and even with oxygen and all my meds, I can do very little. Even making the bed, I need rest breaks, my o2 will drop to 80 - 84 and I struggle to get a breath. My question is this... Yes, I smoked many years (quit 12 years ago) but still feel I was young to have such bad lung problems from just smoking, could weaving fiberglass for a few years (maybe 4 or 5?) have caused my problem? Thank you.

Answer:

Thank you for visiting NetWellness and for your question. The vast majority of cases of COPD are due to cigarette smoke. If someone was a smoker, that was likely the biggest risk factor in developing COPD. In addition, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency is an inherited defect that can cause early emphysema in smokers and nonsmokers.

Chronic exposure to particles such as fumes, chemicals, and dust can cause lung disease. Specifically, exposure to fiberglass could cause chronic bronchitis, fibrotic (scar) changes, or small airways disease (similar to asthma). There have not been any recent studies that have evaluated this, however.

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Response by:

Michael E Ezzie, MD Michael E Ezzie, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University