The 47 Jobs That Are Most Damaging To Your Health

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Some jobs intrinsically have more health risks than others.

A flight attendant working in close quarters with passengers is more likely to catch an infectious disease than a lawyer working in an office, for example. Factor in the greater exposure to cosmic radiation, abnormal sleep patterns, and a less-than-clean work environment, and it's just not the healthiest job.

To rank the most unhealthy jobs in America, we used data from the Occupational Information Network, a US Department of Labor database full of detailed information on occupations.

In order to analyze jobs by their impact on workers' health, we took O*NET measures of six health risks in each of the 974 occupations in the database: exposure to contaminants; exposure to disease and infection; exposure to hazardous conditions; exposure to radiation; risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings; and time spent sitting, since studies show that frequent inactivity shortens your lifespan. O*NET scores these factors on a scale from 0 to 100, with a higher score indicating an increased health risk.

Read on to find out which jobs have the most potential to damage your health.

46 (tie). Mining roof bolters

Roof bolters operate machinery to install support bolts in underground mines.

Median annual salary: $58,450

Overall unhealthiness score: 51.3

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to contaminants: 97
    2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 86

    3. Risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings: 85

    46 (tie). Chemical equipment operators and tenders

    Chemical equipment operators and tenders run equipment to control chemical reactions in the processing of industrial or consumer products.

Median annual salary: $47,800

Overall unhealthiness score: 51.3

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to contaminants: 92
    2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 89

    3. Risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings: 64

  2. 44 (tie). Respiratory therapists

  3. Respiratory therapists assess, treat, and care for patients with breathing disorders.

Median annual salary: $59,710

Overall unhealthiness score: 51.8

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to disease and infections: 98
    2. Exposure to contaminants: 69

    3. Exposure to radiation: 55

  2. 44 (tie). Gas plant operators

  3. Gas plant operators distribute or process gas for utility companies and others.

Median annual salary: $69,030

Overall unhealthiness score: 51.8

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to contaminants: 87
    2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 75

    3. Risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings: 64

  2. 43. Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines

    Construction cranes are seen in downtown Los AngelesThomson Reuters

    Mobile heavy equipment mechanics diagnose, adjust, and repair equipment like cranes, bulldozers, and conveyors used in construction, logging, and mining.

  3. Median annual salary: $50,860

Overall unhealthiness score: 52.2

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to contaminants: 99
    2. Risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings: 94

    3. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 83

  2. 40 (tie). Plumbers

    Plumbers assemble, install, or repair heating, water, and drainage pipes and fixtures.

Median annual salary: $52,590

Overall unhealthiness score: 52.3

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to contaminants: 87
    2. Risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings: 79

    3. Exposure to disease and infections: 58

  2. Shutterstock

    40 (tie). Mine shuttle car operators

  3. Mine shuttle car operators operate cars that transport from the working face of a mine to mine cars or a conveyor.

  4. Median annual salary: $56,890

Overall unhealthiness score: 52.3

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to contaminants: 100
    2. Time spent sitting: 82

    3. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 80

  2. 40 (tie). Locomotive firers

Locomotive firers monitor locomotive instruments and watch for obstacles and train signals.

Median annual salary: $60,360

Overall unhealthiness score: 52.3

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Time spent sitting: 94
    2. Exposure to contaminants: 94

    3. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 76

39. Median annual salary: $73,110

Overall unhealthiness score: 52.5

Top three health risks:

  1. 1. Exposure to contaminants: 94
    2. Exposure to hazardous conditions: 76

    3. Risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings: 73

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