Silicosis is a lung disease that develops by breathing in crystalline silica dust. The tiny particles of silica enter the lungs, and nodules form around the particles. Silica particles can also cause fluid to build up in the lungs.
Types of Silicosis
There are three types of silicosis, which are:
Acute silicosis is most common among workers who are exposed to extreme levels of silica dust without personal protective equipment (PPE). High concentrations of exposure can lead to symptoms developing within just weeks of initial exposure. Depending on the level of concentration, symptoms may develop in a matter of weeks, or may take up to five years to present.
Acute silicosis often results in significant inflammation and fluid buildup. This results in reduced oxygen to the blood, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.
Accelerated silicosis develops among workers who are exposed to high concentrations, but do not develop symptoms for a period of five to 10 years after the initial exposure. Symptoms occur much sooner in patients with this type of the disease.
Chronic silicosis is most common among workers who were exposed to silica dust over an extended period of time. Exposure levels may have been limited to low concentrations, so the disease develops over time. Most often, patients with the chronic form of this disease do not develop symptoms until 10 years or more after initial exposure.
Chronic sufferers experience not only the lungs inflamed, but the lymph nodes in the chest may also become swollen, which can impact breathing and other body functions.
What Silicosis Does to the Body
Once silica particles enter lung tissue, scar tissue begins to form, and nodules develop. Over time, the nodules can grow, causing breathing problems, scarring, cough, and other symptoms. In some cases, nodules develop into large fibroids, which cause further stiffening of the lungs.
People with silicosis often experience fatigue, weight loss, chronic coughing, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. Some patients also experience wheezing or a “crackling” sound in their lungs upon examination.
Silicosis is an extremely dangerous disease, and is responsible for at least 100 deaths each year in the U.S. Patients experience deterioration of their overall health, and may require oxygen support or breathing assistance. Living a normal life with any lung disease is extremely difficult.
Who is At Risk for Silicosis?
Anyone who works around crystalline silica is at risk for silicosis. That is estimated to be around two million workers in the United States alone. The risk is primarily to individuals who work in:
- Foundry Work
- Glass Manufacturing
- Granite Cutting
- Railroad Occupations
- Maritime Industry
Anyone working in these or other industries should take caution when working around crystalline silica. Exposure to these particles can be life-changing or life-threatening.
Silicosis and Your Legal Rights
Workers who develop silicosis as a result of their work environment may be entitled to compensation for the harm they have suffered. This disease is completely preventable if proper safety procedures are followed. This includes following OSHA guidelines for ventilation, reducing dust, and equipping workers with personal protective equipment (PPE).
If you or someone you love is living with silicosis, contact AkinMears, L.L.P. today to find out if your legal rights have been violated. If so, our lawyers can evaluate your potential claim to determine the best possible options.