Silicosis: An incurable lung disease
Silicosis is one of the oldest known occupational diseases and kills thousands of people every year, everywhere in the world.india Updated: May 07, 2006 14:31 IST
Silicosis is one of the oldest known occupational diseases and kills thousands of people every year, everywhere in the world. It is an incurable lung disease caused by inhalation of dust containing free crystalline silica. It is irreversible and, moreover, the disease progresses even when exposure stops. Extremely high exposures are associated with much shorter latency and more rapid disease progression.
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.
Some operations, like dry sweeping, the clearing of sand or concrete, or the cleaning of masonry with pressurized air can generate large dust clouds. Thus even in open air these activities can be hazardous.
Action should be taken before exposure happens.
Silicosis results in conditions such as lung fibrosis and emphysema. The form and severity in which silicosis manifests itself depend on the type and extent of exposure to silica dusts: chronic, accelerated and acute forms are all recognised. In later stages the critical condition can become disabling and is often fatal.
A frequent cause of death in people with silicosis is pulmonary tuberculosis (silico-tuberculosis). Respiratory insufficiencies due to massive fibrosis and emphysema (respiratory tissue loss is not always present), as well as heart failure, are other causes of death.
Silicosis is prevented by avoiding inhalation of dust containing free crystalline silica.