A recent study by the Center for Construction Research and Training and Duke University found that 18% of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease among construction workers is caused by on-the-job exposure to vapors, gases, dusts, and fumes such as asbestos, silica dusts, and welding fumes.

The disease progressively diminishes a person's ability to breathe and is characterized by mucous-producing cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

It afflicts more than 13 million people in the U.S., and construction workers are at an increased risk.

Researchers compared the work history, smoking habits, and medical screening results of roughly 2,000 older construction workers with and without COPD between 1997 and 2013.

Their findings indicate that, while smoking remains the main cause of COPD, workplace exposure to these hazards pose a more significant risk than previously thought, and employers should take appropriate actions to protect workers.