What is Silicosis?

Accelerated Silicosis is an emerging epidemic that affects workers and stonemasons using manufactured stone materials, which are commonly found in kitchen, bathroom and laundry stone benchtops.

Accelerated silicosis is preventable with strict and appropriate work practices to control silica dust generation. Currently, there is major concern that dust control practices have generally been very poor in this industry resulting in many workers being exposed to extremely high levels of silica dust.

Key Facts

  • There are three types of silicosis: acute, chronic, and accelerated.
  • It occurs in workers from mines, foundries, sandblasting, and glass manufacturing.
  • About 2 million US workers remain potentially exposed to occupational silica.
  • There is no cure for silicosis, but it can be prevented.

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Read an overview about Silcosis on The Royal Australasian College of Physicians website >

Types of Silicosis

There are three types of silicosis:

  1. Acute silicosis, which causes cough, weight loss, and fatigue within a few weeks or years of exposure to inhaled silica.
  2. Chronic silicosis, which appears 10 to 30 years after exposure and can affect upper lung areas and sometimes causes extensive scarring.
  3. Accelerated silicosis, which occurs within 10 years of high-level exposure.

How do you develop Silicosos?

Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock, and mineral ores such as quartz. It mostly affects workers exposed to silica dust in occupations such mining, glass manufacturing, and foundry work. Over time, exposure to silica particles causes scarring in the lungs, which can harm your ability to breathe.

Silicosis can develop within a few weeks to even decades after exposure. When people breathe silica dust, they inhale tiny particles of the mineral silica. This silica dust can cause fluid buildup and scar tissue in the lungs that cuts down your ability to breathe. This can lead to lung scarring and cough, weight loss, and fatigue.

How does Silicosis effect your body?

Silicosis affects the lungs by damaging the lining of the lung air sacs. Once this begins, it leads to scarring and, in some situations, to a condition called progressive massive fibrosis. This condition happens when there is severe scarring and stiffening of the lung, which makes it difficult to breathe.

People with acute silicosis experience cough, weight loss, tiredness, and may have fever or a sharp chest pain. You may also have shortness of breath over time, especially with chronic silicosis. Your health-care provider might hear crackles or wheezing when listening to your lungs. Having silicosis increases the risk of other problems, such as tuberculosis, lung cancer, and chronic bronchitis.

Each type of silicosis affects the body somewhat differently:

  • In acute silicosis, the lungs become very inflamed and can fill with fluid, which causes severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.
  • In chronic silicosis, the silica dust causes areas of swelling in the lungs and chest lymph nodes, which makes breathing more difficult.
  • In accelerated silicosis, swelling in the lungs and symptoms occur faster than in chronic silicosis.

Over time, lung capacity decreases, and people with silicosis may need support with oxygen and other devices to help them breathe.

How serious is Silicosis?

Silicosis can cause major lung damage and accounts for more than 100 deaths each year in the United States.

Want more information?

Read the Frequently Asked Questions on Silicosis on the The Royal Australasian College of Physicians website, or contact us and we’ll connect you with a support group.