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What is silicosis?

Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth's crust and is a major component of sand, rock, and mineral ores. Crystalline silica is found in materials such as concrete, masonry and rock. When these materials are made into a fine

dust and suspended in the air, breathing in these fine particles can produce lung damage. Silicosis can lead to heart failure and increase the risk of other diseases such as TB (tuberculosis).

Silica dust is released during operations in which rocks, sand, concrete and some ores are crushed or broken. Work in mines, quarries, foundries, and construction sites, in the manufacture of glass, ceramics, and abrasive powders, and in masonry workshops is particularly risky. Sandblasting is one of the high-risk operations for silicosis. Any abrasive blasting, even if the abrasive does not contain silica, may pose a silicosis hazard when it is used to remove materials that contain silica, such as remains of sand moulds from metal castings. Overexposure to dust that contains microscopic particles of crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which reduces the lungs' ability to extract oxygen from the air we breathe. Typical sand found at the beach does not pose a silicosis threat.

There’re three types of silicosis are seen. Simple chronic silicosis results from long-term exposure (more than 20 years) to low amounts of silica dust. Nodules of chronic inflammation and scarring provoked by the silica dust form in the lungs and chest lymph nodes. This disease may feature breathlessness and may resemble chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Accelerated silicosis occurs after exposure to larger amounts of silica over a shorter period of time (5-15 years). Inflammation, scarring, and symptoms progress faster in accelerated silicosis than in simple silicosis. Acute silicosis results from short-term exposure to very large amounts of silica. The lungs become very inflamed and may fill with fluid, causing severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.

More information on silicosis

What is silicosis? - Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica.
What causes silicosis? - Silicosis is caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. Particles of silica dust get trapped in the tiny sacs (alveoli) in the lungs.
What're the symptoms of silicosis? - Symptoms of silicosis include shortness of breath after exercising and a harsh, dry cough, chest pain, hoarseness, and loss of appetite.
How is silicosis diagnosed? - Silicosis is diagnosed when someone who has worked with silica has a chest x-ray that shows the distinctive patterns of scarring and nodules.
What is the treatment for silicosis? - There is no specific treatment for silicosis. Removal of the source of silica exposure is important to prevent further worsening of the disease.
How to prevent silicosis? - Silicosis is a preventable disease. The key to silicosis prevention is to prevent dust from being in the air.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005