Acute and Chronic Bronchitis

Industrial Bronchitis

Industrial Bronchitis

Industrial bronchitis is swelling (inflammation) of the large airways of the lungs found in coal miners and others exposed to cotton, flax, or hemp dust. Chronic disability from industrial bronchitis is infrequent.


Exposure to dusts, fumes, strong acids, and other chemicals in the air causes this type of bronchitis. Smoking may also contribute.

You may be at risk if you are exposed to dusts that contain:

  • Asbestos
  • Coal
  • Cotton
  • Flax
  • Latex
  • Metals
  • Silica
  • Talc
  • Toluene diisocyanate
  • Western red cedar


Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Cough that brings up mucus (sputum)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will listen to your lungs using a stethoscope. Wheezing sounds or crackles may be heard.

Tests that may be ordered include:

  • Chest CT scan
  • Chest x-ray
  • Pulmonary function tests(to measure breathing and how well the lungs are functioning)


The goal of treatment is to reduce the irritation.

Getting more air into the workplace or wearing masks to filter out the offending dust particles may help. Some people may need to be taken out of the workplace.

Some cases of industrial bronchitis go away without treatment. Other times, a person may need inhaled anti-inflammatory medicines. If you are at risk or have experienced this problem and you smoke, stop smoking.

Helpful measures include:

  • Breathing humidified air
  • Increasing fluid intake
  • Resting

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