Crystalline silica is a natural mineral found in construction materials such as sand, glass, stone or concrete. Activities such as drilling, mining and manufacturing, can release silica dust, posing a serious health threat when inhaled. Unfortunately, silicosis is a common yet unnoticeable occupational disease. With no known cure, it can potentially progress into more severe illnesses.
What is silicosis?
Silicosis is a lung disease that results from breathing large amounts of silica dust particles. The dust particles scar the lung tissues, causing severe damage that results in difficulty in breathing and other complications.
Individuals with silicosis face a heightened risk of contracting other conditions, such as:
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Lung cancer
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Heart failure
It is particularly alarming how silicosis can sneak up on people. The dust particles can accumulate in the lungs for five to 10 years before a person starts showing symptoms. Diagnosis is also challenging, as many other illnesses share the same warning signs.
Because there is no known cure for the illness, preventing it from occurring in the first place and early detection is crucial.
Who is most at risk of silicosis?
Silica is a common workplace hazard for those in the mining, steel, glass, construction and road repair industries. Its widespread presence makes it difficult to avoid without adopting appropriate safety measures.
Exposure to high concentrations of silica can hasten the development of silicosis, emphasizing the need for periodic health monitoring or immediate treatment.
Eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits
Workers who suffer silicosis or similar diseases on the job may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The fact that silicosis might go undetected for years often raises concerns regarding qualifying for these benefits. As long as the individual was employed when they developed the illness, leaving the job that caused it usually does not affect their eligibility.
The challenge often lies in proving that the job was indeed the cause of the silicosis, particularly when a significant amount of time has passed. This shows how important it is to stay away from silica whenever possible and to address any symptoms of silicosis seriously.