COPD causes - occupations and substances

By far the main cause of COPD is smoking but research suggests occupational exposures are likely to play a role.

There are two ways you can look at what causes COPD in the workplace, including;


HSE has looked at research and the following occupations are linked with a possible increased chance of getting COPD:

If you work in these industries and are also a smoker, any risk of getting COPD is likely to be increased even more.


A wide variety of dust or fume have the potential to cause COPD if exposure is high and over a long period of time, for example studies suggest the following substances have the potential to cause COPD;

Some of these occupations and substances are also linked to other diseases, for example, welding fume can cause fume fever and pneumonia.  Some can also cause occupational asthma.

The Top tips page gives advice on how to protect yourself in the workplace. 

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Updated 2024-02-09