Generally, yes. If you have developed asthma for the first time due to a workplace exposure – or if you already had asthma but an exposure has aggravated it – you are generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, it can be somewhat challenging to prove that your asthma was caused or exacerbated by your work.
In order to claim workers’ comp, you will need to show that you have developed a medical condition or sustained an injury that was caused by or exacerbated by work. You don’t have to prove that your employer was negligent or failed to provide appropriate protection. It is enough to show that the illness or injury is work-related.
Asthma can be quite serious, and it can be caused by either inhalation or skin contact with certain chemicals, mold, dust, animal dander and even some plants. Asthma can cause lost workdays, long-term lung damage, disability and even death. However, early diagnosis and treatment can result in better health outcomes.
What workplace exposures can cause asthma?
According to OSHA, there are a number of common products that can cause or exacerbate asthma. These include, for example:
- Paints, ink, lacquer, varnish, sealants and finishes
- Insulation materials
- Glues and adhesives
- Polyurethane foam
- Polyurethane rubber
These products contain a class of chemicals called “isocyanates.” They are commonly used in building construction, the auto industry, painting, printing, textile, rubber and plastic manufacturing and other industries.
How do I know my asthma was caused or worsened by my workplace?
It can start with keeping a good diary of your symptoms. A detailed medical history should consider questions such as these:
- Are your symptoms less severe on weekends or vacations?
- Before the onset or worsening of your symptoms, were you exposed to any new chemicals?
- Do you also have allergy symptoms? Are they worse at work?
If you suspect your asthma is associated with your work, you should consult with a doctor who can further narrow the field of possibilities.
What would workers’ compensation cover for work-related asthma?
In Illinois, workers’ comp covers whatever is reasonably necessary to treat a work-related illness or injury, such as emergency care, doctor’s appointments, hospital care, surgery, occupational therapy, medicine and prescribed medical devices.
Workers’ comp also covers a portion of your lost wages if you are wholly or partly unable to work due to your asthma, either temporarily or permanently. It also offers death benefits to some surviving family members when a worker dies.
If your work-related asthma claim is denied, don’t panic. It is possible to appeal when a legitimate workers’ comp claim is turned down.