Flock Worker's Lung Disease

Flock Worker's Lung Disease

Roy Artal (Pulmonologist and Critical Care Physician) gives expert video advice on: What are the common symptoms of flock worker's lung disease? and more...

What is 'flock worker's lung disease'?

Flock worker's lung disease is a specific lung condition that's attributable to workers who are in an environment where they deal with very small strands of nylon and fabrics. A kind of common example of the type of fabrics that people understand what this is can include fleece products, can include a very kind of plush or soft fabrics that might be in some blankets also being used recently in some dolls. So if you can imagine the workers working in these factories where these products are produced are in this environment where these very minute strands of nylon strand are basically cut and applied and glued onto these fabric sheets to create this very soft snuggling material. So when this material becomes airborne, it really floats in the air because it has such a low weight and obviously has the potential to be inhaled into somebody's lungs; and once that happens it has the potential to cause lung disease.

Who is at risk for flock worker's lung disease?

People who are at risk for flock worker's lung disease are individuals who work in specific factories where this type of material is used. This type of specific material is this very kind of soft plush material that is used on some blankets. It is used on fleece jackets. It is used on some dolls and individuals who work in these environments where some of this material, these very fine nylon strands, might get airborne and breathe that stuff into the lungs. Those are the individuals really who are at risk for this condition.

How does flocking affect the lungs?

These very minute fibers of nylon, which are so small they just float in the air and are airborne, can get into the lungs. Once they get into the lungs, they trigger a reaction of inflammation and scarring. If this takes place over a long period of time, people can develop really significant and sometimes permanent impairment with respect to their breathing.

What are the common symptoms of flock worker's lung disease?

Common symptoms of flock worker's lung disease would include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, and sometimes chest pain. All of this obviously would only be a concern in somebody with a compatible workplace history. For example, if somebody has minimal to no exposure to these products, the likelihood of them actually having flock worker's lung disease is minimal at best.

How is flock worker's lung treated?

The most important aspect of treatment of flock worker's lung disease is to remove the patient, or the individual, from additional exposure. Get them out of the workplace environment. And then the workplace itself really has to look at the policies and procedures that they have in place to protect the other employees who may not be suffering symptoms from flock worker's lung. In terms of the individual himself, or herself, who's already developed symptoms, as we said, getting out of that unhealthy environment. Sometimes steroids have been given for treatment of this condition, although the data to support the use of steroids is not overwhelming and it's something that has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. The most important thing is to get out of that environment and seek medical attention.