In the laboratory

This information is for people that work in laboratories, such as technicians, cleaners or zookeepers. It gives information on things in the workplace that could damage the lungs and advice on how to protect them.

What are the hazards?

These are some of the hazards you may come into contact with at work.

  • Dusts

    When handling animals or cleaning the area where they are kept, you might breathe in, or have skin contact with, dust material from fur, feathers, dead skin, dried urine or saliva.

    You may also be exposed to dusts from drugs, and animal droppings that contain drugs.

  • Cleaning products


    • Benzalkonium chloride (quaternary ammonium compound) – found in disinfectants and cleaners for floors and hard surfaces
    • Chlorine-based agents (sodium hypochlorite) – the main ingredient in bleach
    • Some scents within cleaning products such as limonene which gives products a citrus smell
    • Isothiazolinones – used in some washing up liquids and laundry washing liquids

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung conditions like COPD and lung cancer

If you smoke, you will be at a much higher risk of developing a lung condition.


How can your health be affected?

How to protect yourself

Your employer has a responsibility to ensure the work environment is appropriately ventilated and that you are provided with protective clothing and appropriate safety advice.

Here are three easy things you can do to ensure you're doing everything you can to protect your lung health at work.

  • Risk Assess

    Do risk assessments to make sure you are doing jobs safely and efficiently.

    If working with animals, try and reduce the time you spend in the area where they are kept.

  • Ventilation

    Where possible, keep animals in a ventilated place (where fresh air can pass through)

  • Wear the correct mask

    A mask can stop you developing a work-related lung condition caused by inhaling hazardous substances.

    Different masks are available in a range of sizes and designs, so if you are having trouble using a mask supplied by your employer you should discuss the options for using a different kind of mask.

  • Health check-ups

    Get your health regularly checked - either through a health scheme at your workplace, or by regularly seeing a healthcare professional.

More information