One of the oldest and most dangerous occupational diseases worldwide, silicosis is a type of cystic fibrosis that develops when silica dust particles become trapped in the lungs and form breathing-restricting nodules. These nodules, or scar tissue, handicap the lungs' air sacs, inhibiting the flow of oxygen to and from the lungs. Miners, sandblasters, concrete laborers, and anyone who routinely works or has worked around silica is at risk for exposure.
Causes of Silicosis
Silicosis is caused by exposure to silica dust, which is released during the mining of slate, flint, coal, granite, sandstone, and quartz. Silica dust is composed of flakes from free crystalline silica, one of the earth's most abundant and deadly natural minerals. When inhaled, silica dust wreaks havoc on the lungs, spurring the development of silicosis and other debilitative lung diseases such as sarquodosis, silico-tuberculosis, and a myriad of autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms of Silicosis
Though largely preventable, silicosis is irreversible and deadly, and it can take more than 20 years to surface in someone who has been exposed to silica dust. Although it is marked by symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and weakness, this asbestos-related disease can usually be diagnosed only through a chest x-ray.
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