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What is Silicosis?

Silicosis is an occupational lung disease. Silicosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of silica dust.

When crystalline silica (a component of silica dust) is inhaled, it causes inflammation of the lung tissue. This inflammation leads to scar tissue formation on the lungs. The scar tissue obstructs the flow of oxygen into the lungs and into the bloodstream.

If silicosis is left untreated, it can eventually result in death.

Silicosis is also called dust consumption, grinder's asthma, grinder's rot, grit consumption, mason's disease, miner's asthma, miner's phthisis, potter's rot, rock tuberculosis, and stonemason's disease.

Complications of Silicosis

Silicosis can also make an individual susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections. It can also lead to other respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and tuberculosis.

Symptoms of Silicosis

The most common early symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath following physical exertion
  • Cough
  • Minor fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Occasional chest pains
  • Bluish skin—at edges of extremities

As crystalline silica exposure continues, symptoms usually become worse. Symptoms get worse because the lung cell and tissues become more scarred and are less able to function normally.

More severe symptoms of silicosis include:

  • Chronic shortness of breath
  • A persistent cough
  • Severe fatigue
  • Chest pains
  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Night sweats
  • Advanced degree of cyanosis (bluish skin)
  • Respiratory failure

What is Silica?

Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral. It is white or colorless and found in the earth's crust. Crystalline silica is a core component of quartz, sand, flint, agate, granite, and many other mineral rocks.

Who is at Risk for Silicosis?

Anyone who is exposed to crystalline silica is susceptible to developing silicosis. However, silicosis typically affects workers in the following professions:

  • construction workers
  • sandblasters
  • quarry workers
  • rock drillers
  • foundry workers
  • railroad workers
  • concrete blasters and cutters
  • brick masons
  • pottery workers
  • ship workers
  • miners
  • glass workers
  • welders

Types of Silicosis

There are three main types of Silicosis. Each type is characterized by the level and duration of exposure to crystalline silica.

  • Chronic Silicosis

Chronic silicosis usually occurs after 10 or more years of low-level exposure to crystalline silica. Chronic silicosis is the most common form of the disease and can go many years without detection.

  • Accelerated Silicosis

Accelerated Silicosis typically occurs with moderate to high levels of exposure over a 5 to 10 year period. Accelerated Silicosis is often triggered when workers have direct contact with split or fractured rocks that contain potent concentrations of silica dust particles;

  • Acute Silicosis

Acute Silicosis is the most dangerous form of silicosis. It is the most dangerous because it involves the highest levels of exposure.

How to Prevent Silicosis

Silicosis can be prevented when employees and employers are given sufficient education and training, proper facilities and removal systems, and appropriate warnings and compliance with government regulations.

Can Silicosis be cured?

Currently, silicosis cannot be cured.

What to do if you have Silicosis

If you have silicosis and believed you developed it while working, contact an attorney that deals with silicosis cases.

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