Silicosis - The Forgotten Cousin of Asbestosis and Mesothelioma
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, tunneling, construction and work with many metal ores. Silica is a main component of sand, so glass workers, sand-blasters and construction laborers 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. Silicosis as well as Mesothelioma and Asbestosis have become less common since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) instituted laws and regulations requiring the use of protective equipment, to be provided by employers, that limit the amount of a worker's hazardous material exposure. Now, in most cases, it is legally and lawfully the responsibility of your employer to protect you by providing personal protection equipment (PPE).
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 your employer is lax or refuses to provide for your safety, it is important that you contact your local, state or federal agency that oversees health and safety law and compliance to report it right away. In most situations you can report any negligence anonymously to prevent being singled out and demoted or fired by your employer. Many times your employer will be forced to comply with the laws by the governing agency and your problems will be solved. As an employer myself, I see the need to protect my employees at any cost because they are not only my most valued assets they are people with families and simply deserve to live and work in the safest environment possible. If your employer does not feel this way, you should not feel one bit of remorse if you have to report abuse to the proper authorities.
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 contact a competent lawyer or law office immediately and discuss your situation with them. You may be entitled to compensation due to your employer's negligence. There are lawyers and attorneys that specialize in Silicosis, Mesothelioma, Asbestosis and a vast array of other occupational health related diseases.