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Occupational Diseases in Western PA

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Our region is steeped in blue-collar tradition, from steel mills to coal mines. Unfortunately, with that tradition comes another tradition: that of occupational disease. Industrial employees’ health is often put at risk due to dangerous work environments, products, and air that employees are forced to breathe. Occupational diseases are not limited to the industrial field, however, as healthcare professionals are also exposed to dangerous diseases. The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act lists certain diseases that are to be considered “occupational diseases” for purposes of creating a cause of action under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Here are some examples of occupational diseases covered under the Act:


This is a lung disease caused by exposure to asbestos, which is present in many forms of insulation materials, ranging from roof shingles to ovens. The inhalation of asbestos fibers leads to scarring of lung tissue. This disease commonly affects workers in the building trades and heavy industry and any employee that is forced to work with asbestos-containing materials or products.

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“Black Lung Disease” aka Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis (CWP)

This is a lung disease caused by prolonged exposure and inhalation of coal dust. During mining activities, the coal dust repeatedly becomes embedded in the lungs of miners with every breath and is unable to be absorbed by the body or removed. The coal dust eventually builds to levels that can cause the lungs to become completely black with scarring. This disease primarily affects coal miners.

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Cancer (Benzene Exposure)

Benzene is an organic compound that is commonly present in petroleum materials, chemicals, and glues. Benzene has been classified as a human carcinogen by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. When employees unknowingly inhale Benzene, it gets absorbed into the blood stream where it can build up and cause cancer to form. The most common type of cancer that Benzene causes is leukemia, which is cancer of the blood-forming organs of the body. Benzene has also been linked to a rare form of kidney cancer. Workers in the petroleum and chemical industries are most commonly affected by Benzene exposure.

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Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can be caused by prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers, most commonly by employees who work around asbestos on a day-to-day basis. Asbestos fibers become lodged in the lungs and develop cancerous growths. This primarily affects workers in mines and those that work with asbestos-containing products and materials. Smokers are at a much higher risk of developing lung cancer, as asbestos and nicotine expertly commingle to form cancerous cells.

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This form of cancer is also caused by prolonged exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibers. The mesothelium is the protective lining that covers most of the internal organs of the human body. The asbestos causes cancer to form in that lining. The lining of the lungs is most commonly afflicted, but the lining of the heart and intestines could also become cancerous. This affects employees who work in or around asbestos-containing materials and it has no connection to smoking.

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This is a lung disease caused by exposure to silica, which is present in many forms of rock, stone, and coal. During the cutting or crushing of these materials, the silica is ground into fine silica dust, which when inhaled, embeds itself in the sacs of the lungs. This disease most commonly affects employees that work in foundries with sand molds, factories with sandblasting or rock cutting, and miners.

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Tuberculosis and Hepatitis

Tuberculosis is a common and lethal disease that primarily affects the lungs. Hepatitis is a disease that causes liver failure. Nurses, dental hygienists, and lab technicians are commonly in direct contact with these diseases while working with patients and their blood and are at risk for contraction.

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Infectious Diseases

Many healthcare workers are exposed in their workplace to infectious diseases that can cause serious and deadly consequences and these could be the basis for a Workers’ Compensation claim or third party lawsuit.

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Additional Information

Simply being diagnosed with one of these devastating illnesses is not enough to recover damages for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of wages. It takes proven legal experience to successfully traverse and pursue your claims through the complicated legal systems of Workers’ Compensation and Pennsylvania tort law.

It is important that you discuss your potential claim with an experienced Pittsburgh injury attorney as soon as you are diagnosed. There are strict deadlines with regard to your potential claims. When attempting to recover through Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation, you must file your claim within three (3) years of being diagnosed with the occupational disease and also within three hundred (300) weeks of the date of your last employment with the employer that caused the disease. When pursuing a claim against a manufacturer of the disease-causing products, you have two (2) years from the date of your diagnosis to file your claim.

If you have been diagnosed with an occupational disease, please call Rudberg Law Offices, LLC for a free consultation.

For additional information, you may find the following links useful:

Contact a skilled accident lawyer in Pittsburgh

If you have been injured in any type of accident caused by the careless or wrongful actions of others, call the Pittsburgh accident attorneys of Rudberg Law Offices, LLC for assistance at 412-488-6000, 1-866-306-2667, or complete our quick contact web form.