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Definition - What does Silicosis mean?

Silicosis is a harmful pulmonary disease incurred by regular exposure to crystalline silica dust, a composite mineral found in dust, granite, sand, and other material deposits. Individuals can develop silicosis at different stages, often reflecting independent factors including concentration levels to crystalline silica, exposure duration, absence of safety measures, and personal health lifestyles. Silicosis can be contracted by acute exposure (short time span) accelerated exposure (several years exposure) and chronic exposure (extensive period of years). Employees can encounter crystalline silica byproducts from a wide range of industrial and manufacturing processes such as blasting, drilling, mining, quarrying, and sawing.

SureHire explains Silicosis

Because chronic silicosis is more common with symptoms remaining dormant for years, consistent respiratory examinations are suggested to diagnose and monitor progressive growth. Repetitive crystalline silica inhalation causes the lungs to form scar tissue over time, disrupting the oxygen/carbon dioxide respiratory cycle, affecting normal breathing patterns. Individuals can experience shortness of breath during exercise and/or at rest, substantial weight loss, and chest pain episodes, leading to other serious lung conditions such as tuberculosis.

Although there is no cure for silicosis, treatment options exist to help prevent the onset and/or limit the spread of infection where environmental conditions make employees susceptible to lung diseases. For instance, workplace environments consisting of dusty atmospheres such as construction sites and mining zones, can reduce dust exposure by water saturation. Engineering health and safety methods and procedures can also involve wearing protective equipment such as respirator masks with inbuilt filters to trap dust particles, installing ventilation system units, maintaining and promoting sanitation, and prescription medicine administered by physicians.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) introduced the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), a benchmark control measure for companies to adopt and follow in protecting employees against crystalline silica minerals. Employers are responsible for coordinating workplace safety protocol, in line with OSHA standards, to minimize health risks associated with silicosis and other detrimental lung conditions.

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