Silicosis

SILICOSIS THE HIDDEN DISEASE

Silicosis (also known as grinder’s asthma), is classed as an occupational lung disease
cause by inhaling crystalline silica over an undetermined period of time.

Chronic silicosis can take from 20 to 45 years to develop depending on the concentration of silica exposed to.
Exposure to high levels of crystaline silica can accelerate silicosis in the range of 5 to 10 years or less. In these cases, death can occur quickly.
Smoking can increase lung damage to a silicosis sufferer.

Possible activities that may
expose you to silica:

  • Dry cutting stone benchtops or other stone products
  • Removal of paint and rust with power-tools
  • Grinding mortar
  • Abrasive blasting, crushing, loading hauling, chipping or hammering concrete
  • Dry sweeping or air pressuring concrete dust
  • Abrasive blasting with silica sand

Signs and symptoms of silicosis if you have been working in an industry that includes the production of silica dust particles are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pains
  • Darkening of skin
  • Shallow rifts in nails
  • Respiratory failure

Tests to detect the presence of silicosis can be done by X-Ray where it is easy to identify nodules in the lungs.

There is no specific treatment for silicosis. The first step is to remove the source of silica exposure and prevent the disease from progressing.

Silicosis is not necessarily a death sentence, but the resultant lung scarring, reduced lung capacity and heart problems will impact on a sufferer’s quality of life and ability to work long term.

Therein lies the problem for silicosis victims, with reduced quality of life and capacity to earn an income, providing for a family becomes difficult.

As an employee, your employer has an obligation to provide a safe workplace. A safe workplace includes considered practices and procedures, a safe environment and protective clothes and equipment where necessary. If you have worked in an environment where silica dust was prevalent, and your employer did not provide appropriate protection, you may succumb to silicosis at some point. For you and your family’s sake, talk to us about your rights if the worst scenario happens now or later.

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