Silicosis is an incurable disease that is chronic and fatal – some silicosis victims survive with the disease for years; others perish within a few months of being diagnosed with silicosis. Silicosis is caused from breathing in (inhaling) free crystalline silica dust, and a great many silicosis victims are exposed to silica dust while on the job, doing work like:
- Building construction
- Building repair
- Building roads or highways
- Building bridges
- Repairing highways, roads, or bridges
- Blasting during repair or construction or mining projects
- Masonry work
- Finishing work involving concrete or drywall
- Shipyard abrasive blasting
- Railroad laying and setting track
- Foundry work
What is Silica? Why is it Dangerous?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines crystalline silica as:
Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals. Quartz is the most common form of crystalline silica. Cristobalite and tridymite are two other forms of crystalline silica. All three forms may become respirable size particles when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain crystalline silica.
According to OSHA, workers being exposed to silica while working on the job is a “serious threat to nearly 2 million U.S. workers, including more than 100,000 workers in high risk jobs such as abrasive blasting, foundry work, stonecutting, rock drilling, quarry work and tunneling.”
The federal government has classified crystalline silica as a human lung carcinogen.
It is considered extremely dangerous because when this toxic dust is breathed into a human lung, the human body reacts by forming scar tissue where the dust comes into contact with the lung. Over time, this scar tissue builds up and makes it harder and harder for the person to get oxygen because the lung doesn’t have as much ability to function due to all this scarring.
Additionally, the scarred lungs become more vulnerable to other diseases besides silicosis, including infectious diseases like tuberculosis.
If You or a Loved One Works In a Job Where You May Be Exposed to Silica, Be Alert to Dangers and Do Not Trust Employers to Protect All Workers From Harm
In the Indiana and Illinois area, there are a great many workers employed in jobs where their work will involve their being near to dangerous crystalline silica dust. Both fedral and state law requires employers, including construction companies, contractors, mining companies, road builders, repair subcontractors, and others, to protect workers from the dangers of silica dust and the risk of silicosis.
Read this booklet from the U.S. Department of Labor, “A Guide to Working Safely With Silica,” written to educate workers and employers on the dangers of silica here.
However, the reality is that laws being passed and regulations being established to protect workers are not magic wands that can insure that people are not hurt while working on the job.
Those working in jobs where there may be contact with silica dust need to know how dangerous and life-threatening this can be, and take precautions against being harmed as well as seeking medical help as soon as possible if there is a possibility that there has been an exposure to silica dust or a chance that silica dust has been inhaled and breathed into the worker’s lungs while on the job.
Legal protections exist here and claims can be made to cover medical expenses and more in cases of workers being hurt by silica dust while on the job. Mounting a legal claim for justice is possible in these cases, and wrongful death statutes can be available to loved ones of a silicosis victim, if the worst does happen.