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Understanding silicosis risk for workers

Minnesota residents whose jobs entail working with sand, quartz, rock, or other materials containing silica need to be aware of the risks of developing silicosis. Healthline explains that when inhaled, silica essentially cuts into lung tissue, causing scars to develop on the lungs.

Symptoms of silicosis can develop quickly even with weeks of exposure. This is referred to as acute silicosis. It can also take more than 10 years for symptoms to emerge. This is referred to as chronic silicosis. When people exhibit symptoms within five to 10 years, it is referred to as accelerated silicosis.

Symptoms can include fever, pain in the chest, shortness of breath, coughing that persists, weakness and even loss of weight. Different testing methods may be used to diagnose silicosis. One is a bronchoscopy. Another is an x-ray. Both show the scarred lung tissue. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes that silica exposure can be a factor in the development of scleroderma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and potentially kidney disease. Because a person’s immune system may be weakened, it can also increase the risk that tuberculosis could develop.

Demolition workers, glass manufacturers, mining workers, and quarry employees are some of the people who face a higher-than-average risk of developing silicosis. Special care should be taken on work sites in order to reduce the chance that silica could be inhaled. The use of respirators and presence of good ventilation are important ways to keep workers safe. Employees should never be allowed to have food or drink in an area where silica is present. Good hand- and face-washing techniques should also be implemented.

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