Many Connecticut residents associate lung disease with smoking, and rightly so. However, lung disease can also be a serious occupational illness that arises due to exposure to dangerous materials in the workplace.

One type of lung disease that often results from particularly damaging working conditions is known as silicosis. Silicosis occurs when a worker is exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust, which is classified as a human lung carcinogen.

This crystalline silica dust is used as an abrasive blasting agent and is a component of granite, soil, sand, and many types of rock. Workers who crush and drill rock or concrete, or who sandblast for surface preparation may become exposed to silica dust. Additionally, mining and tunneling, as well as masonry and concrete work, often lead to exposure to this potentially harmful substance. Workers involved in cement and asphalt pavement manufacturing may become exposed to silica dust, as may workers involved in demolition work.

This disease is very serious. It can be utterly disabling and even fatal. Symptoms may include fatigue and loss of appetite. Shortness of breath, chest pain and a dry, nonproductive cough may also indicate that a worker is suffering from this illness. Serious respiratory failure may eventually lead to a worker’s death.

While there are ways to prevent the development of silicosis, such as use of non-crystalline silica blasting materials, for many workers it may be too late for prevention. Those workers suffering from silicosis may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits to help pay for the long-term medical care costs associated with the disease. They may wish to speak with an attorney to discuss all available options.

Source: OSHA, “Protect Yourself: Silicosis“, accessed Oct. 9, 2015