Dangerous Dust


May 19, 2015 / Personal Injury

Dust seems harmless, doesn’t it? Everyone breathes in dust every day. We joke about having dusty homes. And yet, dust that contains respirable crystalline silica can cause irreversible, chronic, and even fatal illnesses.

Exposure to crystalline silica kills more than 250 U.S. citizens each year from silicosis alone, and approximately one million workers are exposed to crystalline silica.

Workers in the construction and mining industries, as well as those who work in sandblasting, stonecutting, and even landscaping are among those at risk.

Those who work at hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites, or especially in frac sand mining, or who live near such mines, also face the potential of future illnesses. In Indiana, the risks from fracking and frac sand mining are small; the dangers are >mainly occupational.

Crystalline Silica Doesn’t Sound Scary

The second most common mineral found in the earth’s upper layers, silica is most commonly found in sand, rock, and certain mineral ores. The sand typically found at the beach does not pose a hazard, nor does the sand in your child’s sandbox. Instead, it is the microscopic particles that come about in the process of certain work, and repeated exposure over time, that cause the damage.

Repeated exposure to crystalline silica increases your chance of developing an incurable lung disease that can be fatal. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) have indicated that breathing silica can cause the following health problems:

  • Silicosis
  • Bronchitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Kidney disease
  • Autoimmune diseases.

Focus on Silicosis

The major illness associated with exposure to crystalline silica is silicosis, which causes fibrosis, or an irreversible scarring, of the lungs. Disabling and often fatal, this occupational disease is the oldest one known to humanity. Depending on the concentration of silica in the air breathed by the worker, one of three types of silicosis can occur:

  • Chronic silicosis, which takes ten or more years to develop
  • Accelerated silicosis, which happens in a five- to ten-year span and results from a higher level of exposure than does chronic silicosis
  • Acute silicosis, which can bring on symptoms after as little as a few weeks of the highest exposure.

Early Symptoms of Silicosis

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea), especially when exercising
  • Harsh, dry cough
  • Cyanosis (bluish tinge to the skin) around the lips and ear lobes
  • Fatigue
  • Fever.

Later Symptoms of Silicosis

  • Coughing up blood
  • Extreme shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain.

Only a doctor can correctly diagnose silicosis.

Prevention: The Best Course

The recommendation from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is to have a medical exam before you enter a trade where you will be at risk for silica exposure. You should also be re-examined at least every three years after that.

Government regulations are clear about the responsibilities of employers to protect employees from crystalline silica overexposure. But you can also do things to help prevent yourself from developing silicosis:

  • Practice good work habits to minimize your exposure to dust, such as using water or a vacuum to remove excess particles rather than blowing them away.
  • Always wear the appropriate respirator and protective gear, especially when working directly with crystalline silica, such as during sandblasting.
  • Take part in all air monitoring, medical examination, and training whenever they are offered to you.

Trusted Advisors. Proven Advocates.

In Indiana, the risk of silicosis is most acute for those in construction and related trades. If you or a loved one believes you have a silicosis case in Indiana and you would like to explore your options, put Mike Stephenson and his team to work for you. At Stephenson Rife, we believe justice matters. A free consultation is just a phone call away – dial 1-317-825-5200.

Attorney Mike Stephenson

Attorney Mike StephensonMike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, and fire, just to name a few. He also works extensively in construction accidents. [ Attorney Bio ]

Featured Posts

  • Can I sue if someone hits me with their car?
    In Car Accidents
    If you were hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk or enjoying a leisurely stroll, it can be both frightening and result in severe injury and impairment. You could be laid up in the hospital for weeks and experience several days or weeks off work. If you’re wondering “can I sue if someone hits me with their car?”, the answer is often “yes.” Pedestrian accidents spiked by 12% nationwide in the first nine months of 2021 as drivers […]
  • What Qualifies As a Spinal Injury Lawsuit?What Qualifies As a Spinal Injury Lawsuit?
    In Catastrophic Injuries
    A spinal injury can be a life-changing event, which is why it’s important to know what qualifies as a spinal injury lawsuit. In the worst case, a spinal injury can leave you permanently paralyzed or otherwise disabled. But even in less extreme scenarios, spinal injuries can lead to chronic pain problems or, at the very least, a long recovery time which could result in lost wages. Regardless of the severity, your spinal injury is likely […]
  • Should Injury Victims Negotiate Directly with Insurance Companies?Should Injury Victims Negotiate Directly with Insurance Companies?
    In Personal Injury
    A recent case handled by our law firm offers a good reminder how an insurance company’s claims adjuster’s job is to settle, even a clear liability injury case, for as little as possible and NOT for the real value of the injury. This case is a great example of what can happen when an injured victim tries to negotiate directly with a very experienced insurance claims adjuster. In this case, an insurance company initially offered only […]

Archives