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Silicosis / Silica - FAQ

Q: What is silica?

A: Silica is a major component of sand, rock, and soil. Any process that involves movement of earth or disturbance of silica-containing products such as masonry or concrete may produce high silica dust concentrations.

Q: How are people exposed to silica dust?

A: While silicosis is most likely to be contracted in such industrial jobs as sandblasting and mining, it can occur in anyone who is routinely exposed to silica dust in the air around them. Silica exposure may also occur during the use of some consumer or hobby items.

Q: What is silicosis?

A: Silicosis is a scarring and hardening of lung tissue that progressively interferes with normal breathing and can eventually be fatal. It can result when particles of silica are inhaled. There is no known treatment or cure.

Q: What are the symptoms of silicosis?

A: While initial exposure to silica and silica dust causes irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, silicosis itself is difficult to detect in its early stages. Frequent dry coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and increasing tiredness are possible early indicators of silicosis.

Q: What is "chronic silicosis"?

A: Most commonly suffered by workers in mining, stonecutting, and similar occupations, this type of silicosis occurs most often after exposure to a constant amount of silica over a longer length of time, usually 7 to 10 years.

Q: My work exposes me to fairly large amounts of silica dust. I know about silicosis, but are there any other medical problems I may be at risk of developing?

A: Yes. People who are exposed to large amounts of silica dust are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer, tuberculosis, and bronchitis.

Q: How can I reduce my exposure to silica dust on the job?

A: Use adequate respiratory protection (i.e., face masks, proper ventilation, and other safety devices). Wear disposable or washable protective clothes at the worksite, and shower and change into clean clothes before leaving the worksite to prevent contamination of cars, homes, and other work areas.

Q: Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to silica?

A: Chest x-rays cannot show silica dust, but can detect early signs of certain lung diseases. Other tests, such as lung function tests and high resolution CT scans, can also detect changes in the lungs caused by silica dust exposure.

Q: I work in the sandblasting business. What should I do if I think the air at work is making me sick?

A. See your doctor for a full medical examination. If it appears that you may be suffering an adverse health condition due to silica exposure, contact an experienced attorney to assess and protect your legal rights.

Q: If I decide to bring a lawsuit for health problems I'm experiencing due to silica dust exposure, who can I sue?

A: It depends on the facts of your case, but possible defendants in such a lawsuit can include your employer, the manufacturer of job site machinery, the supplier of silica-based products, and the manufacturer of safety and protective equipment.

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