Foundry silicosis is a lung disease that develops as a result of exposure to crystalline silica particles. Crystalline silica is a compound in most rocks, dirt, metal and sand. In foundries, workers use sand to make the castings that molten metal will be poured into. This sand comes from river or lake beds, and can contain up to 95 percent silica sand.
Foundry workers who breathe in silica dust are at risk of developing silicosis. Silicosis is a lung disease that currently has no cure. It can progress over a period of years – even decades. Silicosis develops when silica particles enter the lungs and settle into the soft tissues. Over time, nodules form as scar tissue builds up, which can lead to inflammation and fluid buildup in the lungs.
Foundry workers are among the two million workers in the United States who are currently at risk of silica dust exposure. The American Lung Association estimates that each year, 100 Americans will die due to silicosis.
Foundry Work and Silicosis
The foundry industry dates back to the 15th century. Foundry work is the process of melting metals and pouring them into casting molds. There are two types of foundry work:
- Ferrous Foundries – Produce steel and iron castings
- Non-ferrous Foundries – Produce aluminum- and copper-based alloys, as well as gold and silver.
Technology and innovation have advanced the process of foundry work tremendously. Unfortunately, there are still many risks involved in this occupation. One of the most well-documented risks is that of exposure to harmful substances in dust form.
In foundries, castings can range from tiny tool tips to beams used to support bridges and tunnels. As castings are made or cleaned, silica dust is created and becomes breathable. Some foundries use respirators or masks to reduce the risk of exposure. Sadly, research shows that consistent respirator use in foundries is severely lacking.
Research shows a clear link between silica dust exposure and respiratory illness. In some studies, as many as six percent of foundry workers studied had positive signs of silicosis. Such research is disheartening since silicosis is 100 percent preventable.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines for foundries in terms of reducing exposure to silica dust. OSHA has also set exposure limits by which foundry operators must abide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also have recommendations for workers who are at risk for silica dust exposure.
To prevent silica dust exposure, foundry workers can:
- Wear a respirator approved for fine dust
- Cover clothing with disposable or washable work clothes
- Change clothes before getting into your car or home
- Do not eat or drink in areas where sandcasting or sandblasting occur
- When possible, use materials with a lower concentration of silica
Sadly, many foundries are not following these guidelines. In recent years, safety and health officials have attempted to strengthen laws and guidelines in an effort to prevent silicosis. Unfortunately, many employers are not following guidelines, are not providing their employees with proper training and are not requiring personal protective equipment (PPE) be worn at all times.
Have You Been Diagnosed with Silicosis after Working in a Foundry?
If you have ever worked in a foundry and now find yourself with a diagnosis of silicosis, contact Silicosis Help. You may be the victim of improper safety and health standards, and your rights may have been violated.
Silicosis Help can certainly help you determine the cause of your foundry silicosis, and determine if you have an actionable claim. Remember, your exposure to silica dust may have been decades ago, but you may be able to take action and get compensation for your losses. Find out more by calling Silicosis Help at 855-489-7853.