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Ten Unhealthiest Jobs In America - Top 10 Jobs That Make Us Sick

Updated on June 12, 2014

Disease In the Workplace

Which job candidates would voluntarily choose employment in occupations where they could become ill? Beyond that, is a workplace that exposes employees to disease even legal? These are questions some people ask in America.

Various government agencies and private companies analyze data about the workplace in America and publish their findings to help workers with career planning. Several occupations are high risk in that they carry with them a greater probability of fatal injury than other jobs in the country. Another set of jobs is associated with the greatest health risks in terms of disease.

In the late 1980s, much of the public believed that healthcare workers suffered the greatest risk of contracting disease, because of the appearance and spread of HIV and AIDS conditions. This belief was proved incorrect and today's analyses use more accurate measures of risk.

Occupational Safety and Health

According to the US Labor Department, an occupational disease is a chronic ailment that is the result of working at some job-related activity. As such, it is part of occupational safety and health annd further, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that guarantees American workers a safe, clean, and disease-free place of employment.


OSHA does not cover nonprofit companies in Ohio and other states, although Workers Compensation should be in place for those companies as well as for all of the the for-profit corporations in the nation.

Most diseases associated with the workplace have been diseases or conditions of the skin (cancers and other conditions), lungs (black lung, silicosis, asbestosis, cancers, and others), and a miscellaneous set made up of carpal tunnel syndrome, eye/vision problems of computer use, lead poisoning, radiation sickness, and the autoimmune disease lupus that I saw within a Workers Compensation practice setting. (Lupus was decided to be the result in certain cases of exposure to large amounts of fluorescent lighting in the lighted sign-making business.)

8000% Chance of Cancer

Particularly interesting is the statistic that, while smoking is unhealthy, smoking in the presence of smog or heavy fumes from motor vehicles in frequent traffic jams or at work as a mechanic in an auto service garage increases the smoker's risk of cancer by 8,000%. This is according to federal statistics provided by The Ohio State University College of Medicine and College of Public Health in epidemiology classes.

Such a cancer patient bears some responsibility for the condition, but professional garages must provide adequate ventilation and safety equipment under OSHA.

Microscopes | Source
Tissue specimens.
Tissue specimens. | Source

This is a startling and eye-opening account of the spread of an epidemic, tracing its origins to the beginning.


Top 10 Unhealthiest Jobs In America

During 4th QTR 2013, Business Insider used O*NET federal statistics regarding workplace injuries and diseases to determine the top unhealthiest jobs in the USA. The healthcare professions were ranked at the top of the list.

Top 10 Unhealthiest Jobs In America

1. Histotechnologists and Histologic Technicians

These are medical professionals that help examine human and animal tissues to determine causes of dieases. They make up slides of the tissues used by pathologists. In television shows, you see them working without surgical masks, but they likely wear a lot of protection besides latex gloves. Still, they are exposed to many dieases and contaminants, and they may risk exposure to hypodermic needle sticks that can inject virues, bacteria, and other materials.

2. The Dental Professions - Dentists, Oral Surgeons, Hygienists, Lab Technicians and others

You may notice that each time you visit your dentist, additional safety procedures are in place - additional antiseptics, fancy new streamline goggles, new disposable equipment and supplies, and othe rmeasures used to reduce exposure of professionals and patients to dieases and infections.

Dental professions have also been notoroius for long periods of seated work and for high levels of stress among professionals. Both can cause physical conditions that are unpleasant and unhealthy. Suicide rates have been high for dentists as well - 5.45 times more likely than the average American (confirmed by Business Insider in 2010)

3. Flight Attendants

Flight attendants are exposed to all of the aircraft crew, passengers, cabin air, foods, and restroom facilities on a plane. They may be exposed to any number of diseases, infections, disease-carrying vectors, and the illness symptoms presented among adults and children. Even small cuts and scrapes may become infected and insect bites can carry diseases or cause anaphylacactic shock in an allergic reaction. A flight attendant might even be bitten by a human or a pet on board.

Delta Airlines breakfast.
Delta Airlines breakfast. | Source

4. Anesthesiologists, Nurse Anesthetists, and Related Jobs

These workers are frequently exposed to patient diseases and infections, hyodermic needle sticks, various contaminants around hosptials and clinics, various drugs, and radiation exuding from X-ray machines and radiation treatment devices.

5. Veterinarians and Veterinary Assistants/Technologists

These animal professionals examine livestock, pets, and exotic animals and are exposed to contaminants that include chmicals and drugs. They can suffer animal and insect bites, alleergies, and hypdermic needle sticks. They are also exposed to a number of infections and dieases, including molds, fungi, bacteria, and viruses, some of which can pass diseases from animals to humans.

6. Podiatrists

Podiatrists are footcare specialists in medicine. As such, they encounter a number of bacteria and viruses that accumulate on the feet, along with probably fungi and other infestations. They also are exposed to X-tray radiaton, and chemicals like drugs, lotions, and antiseptics.

Homeland Security inspections.
Homeland Security inspections. | Source
Luke Air Force Base water treatment operations.
Luke Air Force Base water treatment operations. | Source
Boiler flames.
Boiler flames. | Source
Surgical instruments.
Surgical instruments. | Source

7. Immigration and Customs Inspectors

Long before I was born, my mother's uncle returned from WWII in a coffin, having been wounded in battle. After the body was placed into the coffin, a glass cover was sealed over the opening to protect the living from possible diseases carried back from Europe and Asia in the body and in the uniform. Today, Immigration and Customs personnel are exposed to the same type of diseases, along with dusts, fungi, molds that can cover and infect shipped plants and animals. Certain contaminants shipped in and out of the country - possibly illegally - may also affect these workers by making them ill. Some radioactive elements may be present in shipped materials as well.

8. Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators

Water and wastewater can contain infectious materials like viruses and bacteria, vectors that spread disease, contaminants, and some radioactive materials. One of the major causes of concern in America regarding foreign relations is the possibility of contamination of our water supplies with "germ warfare." In fact, laboratories located to the west of my hometown examine such technologies on a regular schedule in order to learn how to keep our waters clean and healthy.

Insect bites may represent some of the vector hazards that can be found in these waters. Occasionally, even snakes (some poisonous) and baby alligators are found in wastewater.

9. Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

These workers operate and maintain industrial equipment like boilers and fixed engines. Any of these can contain contaminants like chemicals, disease-carrying vectors, and even radioactive material (rarely). They are probably more likely to suffer injuries than disease, including cuts, burns, and smashed fingers.

10. Surgical Technologists

These heathcare professionals assist surgeons, surgical nurses, and other licensed medical personnel. In their work, they encounter cleaning and antiseptic chemicals, drugs, radiation, sharp instruments that can cause cuts, hypodermic needle sticks, and a range of infections.

Danger vs. Income

All of these jobs hold health risks for their workers, but the Health and Medical Industry jobs listed are among some of the higher paid jobs available in the USA. This is especially true of the job titles connected with anesthesia, surgery, and dentistry.

Review the related job opportunities and salaries at Best Health and Medical Jobs to the Year 2020.

Also see Most Dangerous Jobs in the USA.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Detention Personnel do not experience as high an Incidence Rate of diseases for the year as do the Top 10 Occupations listed. Only the Top 10 as determined by the federal government statistics are listed here.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 3 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      7. Immigration and Customs Inspectors

      Many illegal aliens are arrested and sent to the county jail in Texas. The Detention Officers in the county jail are therefore exposed to all the diseases carried by the aliens.

      Working in a hospital was listed several times, but not working in detention. Why?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes, the waiting room. During flu season one year, I took a friend to her doctor and as we were sitting, a cancer patient entered and checked in for a follow-up visit - when she heard coughing, she ran out of the room quickly, saying her immune system could not handle the germs. She must have been terrified.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 4 years ago from Texas

      Hi Patty, very informative hub. I have worked lots of dangerous jobs, not so much sickness related ones. I don't smoke. But it does scare me going to the doctor and my husband has been in the hospital so many times since 2005, What does scare me in that regard is not the workers it is the waiting room.

      Voted this up, A/I and shared.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      There aren't any jobs on this list that surprise me when it comes to the health factor, but there are some that never would have occurred to me. Very interesting topic.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Interesting hub!

    • AUPADHYAY profile image


      Lots of thanks to your hub as well as to you also. A very informative hub you have shared. Thanks a lot pattyinglishms.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      For anyone interested, if you sign up to receive subscriptions or other information from Business Insider, some top 10 lists and other interesting employment related data arrive in your inbox. The same is true for CNNMoney Magazine,, Business First, trade and economic journals, other publications and a few of the major job search engines that have added data analysis pages. Local and State Chambers of Commerce often have this data, along with any surviving Private Industry Council branches. It's pretty interesting to follow employment trends.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      C.T. -- Perhaps you missed that I provided the source. As I listed just after the subtitle "Top 10 Unhealthiest Jobs In America" : "During 4th QTR 2013 (although I see it says 1013 - need to change that), Business Insider used O*NET federal statistics regarding workplace injuries and diseases to determine the top unhealthiest jobs in the USA." -- Job titles in the Hub are the Top 10 Unhealthiest Jobs (ranking 1 through 10) that result in workplace diseases, as opposed to the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs, which means "DEATHS per 100,000 workers."

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Very interesting hub. Just curious, are these rankings taken directly from the Most Dangerous Jobs report are did you just pick 10 at random to profile?