What is Silicosis?

Silicosis is a serious condition that is perhaps quite downplayed especially considering its consequences. In its simplest sense, the condition refers to a respiratory disease wherein the affected person experiences difficulty in breathing because of amounts of silica dust that have been inhaled in to the lungs. It is most common in miners and other people have occupations that deal with quarrying, metals, and even construction. The condition is also considered to be a serious occupational hazard as almost all patients who have acquired it did so through their line of work.

Although it is not of common knowledge, silica is actually the second most abundant element present in the earth’s crust. It is second only to oxygen, and can be found in various types of rocks such as flint, sandstone, and marble, and it is also a major element in sand. Whenever materials that have silica components are cut, ground, broken, drilled in to, or blasted, fine silica dust is released and it is often in a form that can be inhaled by humans nearby. The inhalation of the fine silica dust may not appear to have too much negative effect to the body, but a long term and repeated exposure can easily damage the lungs and lead to serious damages.

There are three main types of silicosis that commonly occur in many places all over the world. The most common of these is simple chronic silicosis, which refers to the condition as it is resulted from long-term exposure to low amounts of silica. Recorded cases of this condition show that patients have been exposed to the element for at least twenty years, and the effect includes swelling of the lungs as well as of the lymph nodes of the chest. Although the main effect of this condition is simply difficulty in breathing, the fear is the increased risk of tuberculosis. People who suffer from a condition of silicosis are at higher risk of acquiring tuberculosis because the respiratory disease is found to decrease the body’s ability to protect itself from the bacteria that causes TB.

The second type of silicosis is referred to accelerated silicosis. Although patients have been exposed to the harmful element for a shorter term of about five to fifteen years, the amount of silica dust that was inhaled is greater, thus causing the development of the condition. This is in fact worse than simple silicosis because the symptoms are found to occur much faster and in worse levels.

Finally, there is also acute silicosis that results from only a short term exposure to the silica dust, but because of the large amount that is involved, the condition is developed much faster. The lungs of persons who are diagnosed with this type of silicosis are found to be greatly inflamed. The worst factor about this condition is the fact that it allows the lungs to be filled with fluids, thus causing sever shortness of breath as well as lower levels of oxygen in the blood.

Governments and companies in the different countries all over the world are now employing more stringent precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the workers. Protective gears as well as hygiene processes are now ensured so that the exposure to silica dust is lessened as much as possible.