Danger in the Dust: Silicosis
While many workers are familiar with the dangers of breathing asbestos fibers, few understand the danger in dust containing silica, a common component of dust produced on construction and drilling sites.
Silicate minerals are extremely common in the crust of the earth and are a component of rocks, bedrock, granite, building and landscaping materials. Working with or around materials and products containing silica is hazardous if precautions are not taken to prevent inhalation of silica dusts.
According to the Department of Health, New Jersey prohibits dry-cutting or grinding of masonry materials. The inhalation of silica dust can lead to scarring and inflammation of lung tissue that causes serious respiratory disease. Identified as a human carcinogen, silica can be a factor in conditions including the following:
- Lung cancer
- Obstructive pulmonary disorders
- Tuberculosis and renal disease
By itself, silicosis is a progressive, incurable respiratory disease classified by its level of severity:
- Simple silicosis: The most common type of silicosis resulting from long-term exposure to low levels of silica dust. Swelling of inflamed sections of the lung and lymph nodes in the chest gives way to chronic cough.
- Accelerated silicosis: Accelerated silicosis resulting from higher concentrations of silica dust over a shorter period of time
- Acute silicosis: Caused by exposure to high quantities of silica dust. Lungs fill with fluid, breathing becomes difficult and blood oxygen levels drop, leading to respiratory failure.
Silicosis can be prevented, but it cannot be cured. At present, more than 1 million construction workers are at risk for developing silicosis. If diagnosed with an occupation-related illness, speak to an attorney with our firm.