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Defining an occupational illness

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has defined several categories of occupational illnesses that are considered work-related if an exposure or event at work contributed to or caused the resulting condition, or aggravated a condition the worker already had. Those categories include:

-- Respiratory conditions: These are illnesses caused by breathing hazardous chemicals, vapors, dust, gases, fumes or biological agents. Some examples include farmer's lung, rhinitis, silicosis, pneumonitis, asbestosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and much more.

-- Skin disorders or diseases: These are illnesses that are caused by exposure of the worker's skin to plants, chemicals or other substances. Examples include eczema, rash, contact dermatitis, friction blisters, chrome ulcers and more.

-- Hearing loss: This is considered a work-related illness when there is a change in hearing by an average of 10 dB or more and the employee's total hearing level is 25 decibels.

-- Poisoning: These include disorders that are caused by the absorption or ingestion of toxic substances into the body. Examples include lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide, benezene, carbon tetrachloride, insecticide sprays and more.

-- All other occupational illnesses: This is a catch-all for other illnesses that do not fit into the other categories. These include: heat or sunstroke, heat exhaustion, freezing, frostbite, decompression sickness, ionizing radiation, anthrax, hepatitis B or C, benign or malignant tumors and more.

When you have a work-related illness, you have a right to file a workers' compensation claim for medical care, lost wages, disability (both permanent and temporary) and more. If your claim is denied, then a workers' compensation lawyer can help you file an appeal.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Occupational Safety and Health Definitions," accessed June 03, 2016

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