What is Pneumoconiosis?
The word pneumoconiosis stems from the Greek language and means “dusty lungs.” Pneumoconiosis is an occupational lung disease caused by breathing in particles of mineral dust. It is a form of interstitial lung disease, where the irritant is inhaled and then settles in the lungs, causing inflammation. The inflammation then causes scarring to the tissue, which, unfortunately, is irreversible. This transformation takes a while to develop so someone may not show symptoms until after several years of inhaling minerals. Over time, this causes the lungs to harden and interferes with the lung’s normal exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. This puts a person at risk for heart failure, pulmonary tuberculosis and respiratory failure. Ultimately pneumoconiosis can lead to death.
There are three different types of pneumoconiosis: black lung, silicosis and siderosis. While there isn’t a cure available at this time, there are treatment options available to improve a person’s quality of life.
Occupations at the Highest Risk for Pneumoconiosis
- Miners (coal, metal, mineral)
- Ship building and repair
- Iron and steel foundries
- Construction workers
- Insulation workers
- Boiler makers
- Locomotive workers
- Manufacturing (pottery, glass, porcelain)
Black lung is an occupational lung disease caused by prolonged breathing of coal mine dust, also called miner’s lung and anthracosis. Coal miners and workers who process or ship coal are at risk, along with workers who manufacture synthetic graphite, lamp black or carbon black.
Silicosis is an occupational lung disease caused by breathing in silica, a mineral found in sand, rock or mineral ores like quartz. Quartz is the most common form of silica, and is often found in sand, sandstone, slate, some clays, granite and other ores. Workers at the highest risk to develop silicosis are: sandblasters, miners, tunnel builders, silica millers, quarry workers, foundry workers and those who make ceramics or glass.
Siderosis is an occupational lung disease caused by breathing in dust that contains iron particles. Siderosis is also known as welder’s lung or silver polisher’s lung. Siderosis will show up as abnormal on x-rays but rarely causes any symptoms.
(See occupations list above)
It is estimated that about 16% of coal miners develop pneumoconiosis from breathing in coal dust. Other factors that increase a person’s risk:
- Exposure to high levels of dust
- Exposure over a long period of time
How to Prevent Pneumoconiosis
- Do not smoke
- Wear a mask
- Wash the areas of your body that have come into contact with dust
- Safely remove dust from clothing
- Wash your hands and face before drinking or eating
- See your doctor for regular chest x-rays and physical exams
- Pneumoconiosis describes several occupational lung diseases that are caused by prolonged exposure to irritants like mineral dusts and particles. It is a type of interstitial lung disease, which is characterized ... Read more
- Breathing metal dust for any duration of time can have a negative effect on the lungs, but it can be particularly dangerous if you do so over an extended period ... Read more