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Silicosis Increases Occupational Hazards Among Workers

Aug 8, 2008
Silicosis is a fibronodular lung disease caused by inhaling excessive amounts of silica dust. Silica is a common mineral found in sand and rock. In fact, it is the second most-often occurring mineral in the Earth's crust. As dust, it can be inhaled, which scars and inflames lung tissue. When silica is first inhaled, the body creates macrophages to combat the particles. The silica dust destroys macrophages.

This leaves scarring, known as fibrosis, in the lungs. In turn, the fibrosis can interfere with proper lung function and leave patients susceptible to further lung ailments. Miners, sandblasters, refinery workers, refractory workers, foundry workers, raw materials handlers, furnace installers and repairers, casting workers and other such laborers are at risk of occupational exposure to silica. These occupations often require workers to handle fine particles of rock, sand or glass, which are laden with silica.

Chronic silicosis usually is seen in people who have been exposed to crystalline silica in relatively low doses for ten years or longer. Accelerated silicosis is the result of breathing in large amounts of crystalline silica for five to ten years. Acute silicosis occurs at the highest levels of exposure and can develop within just a few weeks or as many as five years after initial exposure. Most cases of this condition do take years to develop. At the onset of the disease, symptoms may be few. As the disease progresses, symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, change in breathing patterns and loss of appetite.

Severe cases may result in the need for lung transplants, increased risk of lung cancer or other lung disease or death. To test for silicosis, doctors will likely perform chest x-rays, tests to judge pulmonary function or skin tests for tuberculosis. A health care provider should ask questions about jobs or hobbies that may have put the patient at increased risk of exposure to silica. There is no cure for silicosis.

Victims should refrain from activities that have exposed them to excessive silica. Patients can also ease problems associated with silicosis by removing irritants, such as cigarette smoke, from their environment. Symptoms, such as coughing, can be treated. The risk of additional disease, like tuberculosis, can be mitigated. Antibiotics can be supplied in cases of lung infections.

The best way to prevent silicosis through workplace safety in high-risk industries. In fact, according to OSHA, 100 percent of these cases could be prevented with proper protective equipment. Many legal standards are in place to curb the formation of the condition. It is when companies fail to follow these precautions that cases of silicosis develop in their workers. Workers who were not provided the right safety equipment by their employers might be able to bring worker's compensation lawsuits against their employers. Workers may also file suit in many cases where a silica-based product that did not meet government or industry standards was used in the course of work.

Claims have also been made against manufacturers who make faulty safety equipment. Damages to cover medical costs, lost wages, and other expenses may be collected. In some cases, workers who developed the illness due to occupational exposure may have died. In those cases, a family member or executioner of the estate may file a suit on behalf of the worker.
About the Author
Learn more about silicosis at http://silica.legalview.com/. Or use the LegalView homepage, http://www.LegalView.com, to research other legal issues such as the Avandia side effects or mesothelioma information, which is also a disease caused through the inhalation of a mineral.
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