Silicosis, Mesothelioma and Asbestosis are all three occupational related cancers that are preventable.
Silicosis is a respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust, which leads to inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. Similar to Mesothelioma and Asbestosis, Silicosis silently caused millions of industry related health issues and deaths before it was discovered and could be properly diagnosed.
The main cause of Silicosis is long-term exposure to silica. Silica is a common, naturally occurring crystal. It is found in most rock beds and forms dust during mining, quarrying, tunnelling, construction and work with many metal ores. Silica is a main component of sand, so glass workers, sand-blasters and construction labourers also receive heavy exposure to silica.
Risk factors for Silicosis include but are not limited to any work that includes exposure to silica dust. Mining, stone and concrete cutting, quarrying, road and building construction, work with abrasives manufacturing, sand blasting and many other occupations and hobbies involve exposure to silica.
Intense exposure to silica may result in symptoms of or full blown Silicosis in a year or less, but it usually takes at least 10 or 15 years of exposure before most symptoms of Silicosis develop.
The three different types of Silicosis are:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
If you feel that you are in an industry with a high risk of exposure to silica dust, or any other hazardous material, you should take it upon yourself to use every method necessary to protect yourself from exposure. It is important to discuss any health concerns that you may have with your employer and have your employer provide you with the personal protective equipment required by law to minimize your exposure to hazardous materials such as silica.
It is legally your employer’s responsibility to provide you with safety devices that will protect you but it is ultimately your responsibility to protect your health and the health of your family.
If you feel that you have been negligently exposed to Silica or any other hazardous material and are now experiencing health related issues from it, you should take legal help. You may be entitled to compensation due to your employer’s negligence.