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It is estimated that approximately 1,200,000
workers are exposed to silica each year

Silica Exposure: Are you at risk?
Signs & Symptoms
Treatment & Prevention
How to Protect Yourself

Between 1979 and 1996, 2,694 deaths were attributed to silicosis. Each year 300 people die with silicosis listed as the cause of death on their death certificates. About 1.6 million workers are believed to have been exposed to silica dust, and almost 60,000 are expected to suffer from some degree of silicosis.

Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth's crust and is a major component of sand, rock and mineral ores. When workers inhale the crystalline dust, it may start a chain reaction that ends in silicosis. Silicosis is a serious and potentially fatal respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust, which is a common constituent of dust at construction sites, rock quarries, sandblasting facilities, and demolition operations. Silica particles can become embedded in the lungs, where they cause scarring and hardening of lung tissue. Workers can be exposed to silica dust when performing such tasks as chipping, hammering, drilling, crushing, or hauling rock; performing abrasive blasting; and sawing, hammering, drilling, and sweeping concrete or masonry. Even materials containing small amounts of crystalline silica can be hazardous if they are used in ways that produce high dust concentrations.

In the disease's most common form, which occurs after 20 or more years of exposure, silica is inhaled and deposited in the lungs, causing inflammation. Chronic silicosis usually takes anywhere from 20 to 45 years to develop, but even 5 to 10 years exposure time at higher concentrations can result in an accelerated version of the disease. (The combination of cigarette smoking and silica exposure also results in much more severe lung damage.) The rarest form of the disease, known as acute silicosis, can involve a single lethal dose or many exposures to a high concentration of silica within two years or less. The silica particles land in the air sacs of the lung, leading to inflammation that causes the sacs to fill up and make gas exchange impossible. This form is progressive and often fatal.

Types of Silicosis

Accelerated silicosis - results from higher exposures and develops over 5-10 years.

Acute silicosis - occurs where exposures are the highest and can cause symptoms to develop within a few weeks or up to 5 years.

Chronic silicosis - the most common form of the disease, may go undetected for years in the early stages; in fact, a chest X-ray may not reveal an abnormality until after 15 or 20 years of exposure. The body’s ability to fight infections may be overwhelmed by silica dust in the lungs, making workers more susceptible to certain illnesses, such as tuberculosis.

How to Prevent Silicosis

If you’ve been exposed to silica, you may be at risk for silicosis. Call your doctor, and then call an experienced dangerous drug attorneys about silicosis.


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