Uncovering the Truth about Bamboo Bonfire Lung Disease

Histoplasmosis is a rare form of lung disease most often diagnosed in workers employed in excavation and building construction – or anyone working out in the natural environment. The lung disease is also known as Bamboo Bonfire, and it is often resistant to antibiotics and accompanied by vague symptoms. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm take a closer look at who could be exposed and how.

The disease is caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum, which, if able to enter the lung, can cause a serious fungal infection. It often begins to manifest as a dry cough, stomach discomfort, fever and nausea.

In 2011, a brother and sister were hospitalized for these symptoms, given antibiotics and sent home. A week later, the children’s health worsened and they were diagnosed with pneumonia and given more antibiotics. When they still failed to improve a few days later, physicians at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital started asking questions about what they had done in the weeks prior.

A week before their illnesses began, they cut bamboo, made a fort and burned wood with some other family members who later turned out to be sick as well. Much of the bamboo was inhabited by red-winged blackbirds, which pass Histoplsama capsulatum through their droppings. Once doctors knew this they immediately treated the children with antifungal drugs. They improved within 48 hours, and continued on the medication for three months.

Arkansas and many other parts of the Americas are full of red-winged blackbirds, however almost all types of birds and bats can spread Histoplasma through their droppings. Any disturbance of these droppings, say, through burning or bulldozing, can create dangerous air contamination.

Teams of Workers Exposed

Reports of occupational exposure to Histoplasma go back several decades. In 1977, for example, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a story again out of Arkansas, where a courthouse was being excavated and workers had to clear pigeon droppings from the roof. As a result, dozens of courthouse employees and construction workers developed histoplasmosis, and 100 more developed some type of infection.

A few years later, in 1980, a team of six construction workers in Louisiana contracted histoplasmosis after they bulldozed bamboo trees and burned the debris. The CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a free informational booklet, written in both English and Spanish, which you can download here.

Among its contents the booklet includes information on how workers can minimize exposure to dangerous dust and air contaminants. The occupations most at risk of exposure to this fungus include:

  • Heating and air conditioning installers or servicers
  • Demolition or construction workers
  • Farmers
  • Pest control workers
  • Roofers
  • Chimney cleaners
  • Microbiology lab workers
  • Bridge inspectors or painters
  • Anyone involved in the restoration of historic or abandoned buildings

Occupational exposure to dangerous substances is not new, but it is always the employer’s responsibility to inform workers when and how such exposure can happen. Employers are also responsible for providing workers with adequate protection equipment, and providing training on how to properly use them.

Anyone exposed to toxic substances, such as histoplasma, asbestos or lead, while on the job and develops a serious illness from exposure can file a lawsuit to recover damages for any medical bills, lost wages, or wrongful death. In an age of such technological advancement, there is no excuse for failing to provide workers with proper protection and training.

Our team of occupational exposure lawyers has been advocating on behalf of injured, sickened, and killed employees for nearly thirty years. We have the knowledge, experience and resources to litigate cases in any state, and we never charge any fees until we are successful in your case. If you don’t get paid, neither do we. Call our firm for a free case review if you have any questions about toxic substance exposure.

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