The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Silicosis is a form of pneumoconiosis, which is an occupational lung disease developed by breathing in particles of mineral dust. Silicosis is specifically caused by the inhalation of silica, a mineral present in mineral ores and rock such as quartz. Silica is most often found in granite, clays, concrete, sandstone, sand, slate and other forms of ore. Workers that are regularly exposed to silica and are therefore more susceptible to developing silicosis include miners and construction workers that participate in sandblasting, demolition, rock drilling, concrete drilling and other jobs dealing directly with mineral ores and rock. In addition, foundry workers, silica millers, quarry workers and those working in the production of pottery, ceramics or glass are also at an increased risk for developing silicosis.
When a person develops silicosis, the inhaled irritant causes inflammation, eventually resulting in the development of scar tissue in the lungs. Because the process of the inflammation transforming into scar tissue can take quite a while, someone who has been exposed to silica may not develop the disease for months or even years after inhaling the mineral. However, once the scar tissue has developed, it is irreversible and can cause the lungs to harden. Hardening of the lungs creates interference with the lungs’ normal exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen, which can put the person at a higher risk for respiratory failure, pulmonary tuberculosis and heart failure.
There are many actions a worker can take to prevent the development of silicosis. Some of these actions include:
- Wearing personal protective equipment, such as a respirator, when working with or near materials that may contain silica
- Washing the hands and face immediately after working with or near crystalline silica dust, and before eating or drinking
- Using available water sprays and ventilation systems when working in confined areas
- Changing into clean clothes before entering your car or home after exposure to silica
While there is currently no cure for silicosis, there are many treatment options available to manage the condition and improve an affected person’s quality of life. The Lung Institute offers a revolutionary approach to the treatment of interstitial lung diseases such as silicosis: stem cell therapy. Our procedures are safe and minimally invasive and are geared toward not only alleviating the symptoms of silicosis, but also at potentially slowing the overall progression of the disease and relieving lung inflammation.