Acute or chronic silicosis at work is a lung condition caused by silica dust getting into the respiratory system of workers. Silica is a very common mineral that can be found anywhere where there are sands, rocks, and quartzes. Individuals whose occupation makes it hard for them to avoid breathing silica components include construction, mining, among others. These workers are at risk of developing silicosis. As they breathe in the solidified dust particles, this crystallized silica can cause scarring in the lungs and inflammation. Inflamed lungs can lead to fluid accumulation that impedes one’s capacity to breathe normally.
Silicosis and symptoms
Typically, chronic silicosis progresses between twenty to forty-five years following exposure to silica. However, other forms of silicosis can develop following very excessive quantities and severe exposures to concentrated silica. Individuals who acquired silicosis manifest symptoms like, dyspnea or labored breathing after intense physical activity, harsh and chronic coughing, malaise, loss of appetite, fever, and chest pains. With all forms of silicosis, silica dusts are breathed in the lung’s air sacs. This leads to inflammation and tissue lungs may be scarred. When this happens, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the alveoli of the lungs are affected and so is the person’s breathing. Contingent to how severe the case is, the illness can be life threatening because the inflammation may also affect or damage other parts of the respiratory system.
Types of acute or chronic silicosis at work and their effects
Typically, silica affects breathing and the respiratory system. Various types of this disease cause different effects to the human body.
Acute silicosis – this takes place after only a number of weeks and months of exposure to increased amounts of crystalline silica. This type of silicosis develops fast and can cause death within only a few months. The inflamed areas of the lungs can be filled with fluid which makes it difficult for the person to breathe and causes for the levels of oxygen in the blood to be low.
Accelerated silicosis – this occurs five to ten years following exposure to increased levels of silica. Lung inflammation and accompanying symptoms occur more rapidly as compared to simple silicosis.
Chronic silicosis – this is very common and typically becomes evident after ten or more years of getting exposed to low quantities of silica components. Silica dust may cause the area in the lungs and lymph nodes to swell which consequently impedes the person’s capacity to breathe.
More or less 2 million employees in the United States are exposed to crystalline silica related to their line of work. More than a hundred thousand of the workers in the following occupations are likely to develop silicosis:
- Construction and fixing of highways and bridges
- Construction, demolition, and repairs of structures
- Finishing jobs of concrete and drywall
- Drilling and crushing of rocks
- Screening (gravel/sand)
This disease is chronic and there has been no definite cure for it. Treatment modes only reduce the symptoms and manage the infections that persons with this illness are inclined to develop. Contingent to the form of silicosis, a person can have silicosis for many years or the disease can cause death in only a matter of months.