In the State of Florida, 7.1 percent of the population is affected by COPD, according to the COPD Foundation. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a medical term used to refer to a wide range of progressive lung conditions. COPD is frequently caused by exposure to environmental toxins, so may be considered a type of environmental injury.
Lung conditions which fall under the classification of COPD include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, non-reversible asthma, and certain types of bronchiectasis. COPD sufferers experience breathing difficulties, chest tightness, and coughing, and the respiratory difficulties can result in secondary symptoms including fatigue. Because COPD is progressive, symptoms worsen over time.
The COPD Foundation warns the majority of COPD cases result from inhaling pollutants, including chemicals, dust, and fumes in worksites. While smoking is the leading cause of COPD, as was the case with the late actor Leonard Nimoy, environmental factors are the second most common reason that COPD occurs. Workplace exposure is a very common cause of COPD, especially as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not completed a substantial update of its permissible exposure limits since the 1970s. Permissible exposure limits (PELs) are legal limits for the amount of toxins an employee may be exposed to in a workplace.
When COPD is linked to workplace exposure to toxins or fumes, sufferers may be able to obtain coverage for medical bills as well as disability benefits through a workers’ compensation claim. If victims can prove exposure stemmed from other sources such as dangerous products sold by manufacturers, a landlord’s failure to provide a safe environment, or a company’s decision to pollute, COPD sufferers may be able to pursue a civil claim for compensation.