• Crystalline silica exposure can lead to deadly lung disease silicosis
• NIOSH releases new report about continuing silicosis risk
• About 100 American deaths each year traced to silicosis, according to NIOSH
report from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reveals that silicosis causes or partially contributes to around 100 American deaths per year, and sickens many more. Most individuals diagnosed with silicosis are occupationally exposed, and work in jobs such as mining, quarrying, sandblasting, rock drilling, road construction, pottery making, stone masonry and tunneling operations.
Silicosis is not going away anytime soon—new jobs that expose workers to quartz dust, the leading cause of silicosis, continue to emerge. Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is known to expose workers to dangerous dust particles. Similarly, fabrication and installation of increasingly popular stone countertops poses of a risk of silicosis to workers in related industries.
Workers face numerous hazards when carrying out their job duties each day, but silicosis is among the most frightening of occupational diseases. Chronic silicosis can take up to 10 years from the time of initial exposure to fully develop, making it difficult for workers to realize that their job conditions may result in fatal exposure. The onset of death in fatal cases of silicosis can often take much longer than a decade. On the other hand, high levels of exposure to dust can cause lead to acute silicosis, causing immediate illness after the events of exposure.
Industry groups assert that silicosis risk has been declining in recent years, however, NIOSH statistics reveal that at least 12 people under the age of 45 suffered from silicosis that caused or contributed to their deaths between 2011 and 2013. The younger age of silicosis fatalities is significant, because it could indicate that younger workers are facing higher-level exposures to silica than older workers who suffered chronic silicosis fatalities. Moreover, awareness of the risks of silicosis is not high in newer industries, such those that have emerged around fracking, a developing technology.
According to NIOSH, healthcare providers should report instances of silicosis in their areas to local health departments. At least 25 states listed silicosis as a reportable condition in 2010. In 2013, NIOSH released new recommendations to lower the amounts of permissible exposure limits for workers; something the agency says could save as many as 700 lives due to silica each year.
If you or a loved one have been affected by silicosis due to on-the-job silica exposure, please call us to find out about your rights under law as you try to decide your best course of action. You may also click on the “chat now” link to start a dialogue right now, online.
You may be able to take steps under workers’ compensation laws or, if a third party is to blame for your silica exposure, may be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim to seek financial restitution.
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