Silicosis: The Silent Killer
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Silicosis has been called an emerging occupational health epidemic.
With a concerning number of cases being confirmed across Australia, our team here at Corporate Doctors Plus want to share the latest findings on silicosis, so we can better prepare workers who may be at risk of developing this potentially deadly disease.
What is Silicosis?
Silicosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of silica dust* which leads to inflammation and then scarring of the lung tissue. Silicosis causes shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and a severe cough but symptoms often do not present in the early stages of the disease. Consequently, it can go undetected for years which means that some workers may not know they have the disease.
*Silica dust is created by cutting, grinding, drilling or otherwise disturbing materials which contain crystalline silica particles. There are a surprisingly large number of jobs which involve exposure to silica dust, – mining (gold, tin, copper and coal), stone quarrying, sandblasting, metal grinding, pottery and ceramic manufacturing, to name a few.
Types of Silicosis
- Simple Chronic Silicosis
This results from long-term exposure (20 years plus) to low amounts of silica dust. Nodules of chronic inflammation and scarring provoked by the silica dust form in the lungs and chest lymph nodes.
- Accelerated Silicosis
This occurs after exposure to larger amounts of silica over a shorter period (4-8 years). Inflammation, scarring, and symptoms progress faster in accelerated silicosis than in simple silicosis.
- Acute Silicosis
This results from short-term exposure to very large amounts of silica. The lungs become very inflamed and may fill with fluid, causing severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.
Treatment for Silicosis
The devastating fact is that there is no cure for silicosis. Consequently, our team believes that the best approach is prevention.
Dr Vee Maliyasena, our experienced onsite Respiratory Physician specialises in the management of adults with all types of respiratory disorders and advises. “If you work with , I urge you to go and see your GP as soon as possible. Please do not wait until you develop symptoms. It is important that you advocate for your own health and seek the care you need.”
Dr Maliyasena also recommends these preventative measures:
- “From a workplace perspective, we would recommend wet-cutting (i.e. wetting down the stone prior to grinding or cutting it into shape). This reduces the amount of respirable silica dust you are exposed to, although it does not eliminate the risk entirely.
- “If you work in the artificial stone industry, it is imperative that you wear proper personal protective equipment. Not just a simple mask, but a dedicated respirator mask. We can do face-fit testing here (at Corporate Doctors Plus)”.
Corporate Doctors Plus can take care of all your occupational health needs. Our handpicked team of qualified and experienced medical professionals recognises that a tailored, evidenced-based approach is essential in providing cost-effective and successful treatment, wellness and return-to-work plans.
Our directors, Dr Fiona Raciti and Dr Maria Boulton lead a team of experienced doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, specialists and a collaborative administration staff, who all contribute to providing quality occupational health services.
For further enquiries or to find out more about our competitive fees, call us or send us an email.