dust on the lungs

Dust On The Lungs: Claim Compensation For Inhalation Of Airborne Fibres At Work

The dangers to your health of inhaling dust at work should not be underestimated – in this article you will learn about the occupational diseases that you can develop in the workplace from dust on the lungs and how to claim compensation from your employer.

What is a dust on the lungs compensation claim?

Should you inhale mineral dust or other airborne fibres at work (and some other environments) leading to a respiratory condition (lung disease) and that exposure is considered to be the legal fault of your employer) or another person or business – you may be entitled to claim compensation.

This claim is known as a dust on the lungs compensation claim or occupational lung disease claim.

Jobs where mineral dust exposure occurs

Many jobs, such as mining or stone cutting, require workers to be exposed to a large amount of dust all day.

Inhalation of fine dust

This dust can be very fine. Should you inhale fine dust it can overwhelm your natural defences and reach your lungs causing damage.

Scarring of lungs

Over a long period of time this damage can lead to scarring of your lungs (fibrosis) and when the scarring reaches a certain severity, it can lead to lung disease.

Lung scan shows a shadow

If your lungs are scanned – shadows and discolorations may be seen which can lead to a diagnosis of lung disease from dust on the lungs.

Type of lung disease depends on type of dust

The type of lung disease is dependent on the type of dust that you are exposed to.

When the dust is from asbestos – it can particularly hazardous. Examples of lung disease caused by inhalation of asbestos, include: asbestosis and more rarely mesothelioma.

How does your body attempt to stop dust reaching your lungs?

Your body has a natural defence system designed to keep dust away from your lungs.

Hairs that line your nose and air passages

Little hairs called “cilia” line your nose and air passages leading to your lungs, which are sticky – to catch most of the dust particles.

Cilia move like a conveyor belt in your air passages. Their mission – to take trapped dust back up to your mouth where it can be harmlessly removed.

Despite your natural defence system being very effective, too much dust exposure can overwhelm it – such as when you work in a dusty environment. Over time dust reaches your lungs and builds up causing dust on the lungs.

Example of construction worker dust exposure

Imagine you work in construction demolishing old properties giving rise to exposure to many potentially harmful dusts. For example: asbestos dust, brick dust, concrete dust, plaster dust, etc.

It is easy to see how you will inhale large amounts of dust every day that can overwhelm your natural defence system.

Your employer should appraise the risks, minimise your dust exposure and provide the correct breathing protection. – and so overwhelm your natural defence system.

Smokers Should Be Extra Careful
If you are a smoker be very careful of working in dusty environments. Smoking can turn your natural defence system off greatly increasing the risk of lung disease

Why does dust on the lungs cause damage?

Not all dusts are dangerous.

Irritation and chemical reaction

However, some dusts when they reach your lungs can cause irritation or a chemical reaction.


This can lead to scarring of the lungs called “fibrosis”.

As time goes by and the dust on the lungs increases – the scarring becomes worse leading to lung disease.

A Single Fibre Of Hazardous Dusts Can Cause Lung Disease
Some types of dust are so hazardous that just one fibre can cause serious lung disease. An example is an asbestos fibre being caught in the lining of the lungs leading to mesothelioma.
coal dust lung disease compensation claim
Coal Worker Lung Disease

What types of dust can cause occupational lung disease?

The dust of many minerals, compounds, materials and substances can cause dust which can lead to lung disease, including:

Silica or Quartz

Silicosis is the most common form of lung disease from dust. Quartz is one of the earth’s most plentiful minerals and when breathed in . Most mining activities, even for other minerals such as gold or coal, will involve passing through a layer of quartz.


Asbestos fibres are particularly nasty and can cause dust on the lungs conditions.

Examples include asbestosis; lung cancer and pleural thickening.  Asbestos fibres can also affect the lining of several organs in the body when ingested leading to different types of mesothelioma.

Pleural Plaques Can Be Asymptomatic
Pleural plaques are slight areas of thickening in the membranes lining the lungs. They tend to be benign and typically asymptomatic.
Therefore – you will typically be unable to claim compensation unless a more serious asbestos condition develops or the pleural thickening spreads to other parts of the lung and becomes diffuse.


Inhalation of beryllium dust can cause berylliosis.

Barium sulphate

Inhalation of barium sulphate can cause a respiratory condition known as baritosis.

Iron oxide

Iron oxide dust on the lungs can cause siderosis.


Coal miners black lung (technically coal workers’ pneumoconiosis) is caused is caused by coal dust on the lungs

Tin oxide

Breathing in excessive tin oxide dust can cause stannosis.


Dust from hardwood, softwood and composite materials such as MDF can cause various different lung conditions. For example – asthma and lung cancer.

Other materials and substances

There are many other types of dust fibre and chemical vapour that can caused lung disease.

When to speak to a solicitor?

If you work (or have worked) in any environment exposed to excessive dust, chemicals or vapours, no matter how many years ago and are experiencing some form of breathing difficulties – it is important you seek medical assistance and contact and industrial disease solicitor.

A Time Limitation Exists To Make A Claim
Watch out – when considering a dust on the lungs industrial disease claim there are limitation periods that might prevent your ability to claim compensation.
Therefore, the faster your speak to a solicitor the better your chances of making a claim.

Summary And Next Steps

In this article – you have seen why breathing in airborne fibres in the workplace can lead to dust on the lungs claim for compensation against a current or past employer.

See our industrial injury claim article to find out what you should do before starting a workplace asbestos compensation claim.

We offer online and telephone free legal help options. For example – you might just wish to discuss your situation with a solicitor or have a question that you would like answered before deciding whether to make a industrial lung disease claim.