Laboratory technician or work with animals
This information is for people that work in laboratories or work with animals, such as technicians or zookeepers. It gives information on things in the workplace that could damage the lungs and advice on how to protect them.
What are the hazards?
These are some of the hazards you may come into contact with at work.
Dusts and sensitisers (e.g. rat urine, drugs)
When handling animals or cleaning the area where they are kept, you may breathe in, or have skin contact with, dust material from fur, feathers, dead skin, dried urine or saliva.
You may also be exposed to dusts from drugs, and animal droppings that contain drugs.
- Benzalkonium chloride (quaternary ammonium compound) – found in disinfectants and cleaners for floors and hard surfaces
- Chlorine-based agents (sodium hypochlorite) – the main ingredient in bleach
- Some scents within cleaning products such as limonene which gives products a citrus smell
- Isothiazolinones – used in some washing up liquids and laundry washing liquids
Biological agents are widely found in the natural environment, however some workplaces may use them intentionally. They include bacteria, viruses and fungi (mould). Some infectious lung diseases can be transmitted in the workplace particularly if you work in agriculture or with animals, or in a healthcare or gym.
Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung conditions like COPD and lung cancer
If you smoke, you will be at a much higher risk of developing a lung condition.