For construction workers, artists or residents exposed to sandblasting and other forms of abrasive cleaning, there is danger in the air. Silica is a common mineral used in the sandblasting process that can cause lung injury, disease and death.
After the attack on the World Trade Towers and their collapse, New York residents, emergency responders and workers gained firsthand experience with the inhalation danger of aerosolized materials like asbestos and lead. The danger of silica is similar.
Whether used in construction, quarrying, masonry or cement works, airborne silica is easily inhaled by unprotected workers, bystanders and nearby residents. Once inhaled, silica settles in the lungs, irritating tissue and provoking encasement of particles by scar tissue. This action can lead to health issues, including:
- Chronic silicosis: Fibrous scar tissue in the lungs decreases lung capacity over time. Occurring over a longer span of years, this progressive disease eventually results in fatigue, shortness of breath and cough and can cause death from oxygen deprivation.
- Accelerated silicosis: With progression and damage similar to chronic silicosis, accelerated silicosis results from higher or more intense exposure to silica and may develop within five to 10 years of exposure.
- Acute silicosis: Usually only occurring after intense or severe exposure to silica, this disease is less common, but produces similar symptoms and usually causes death.
Silica is associated with other conditions, including pulmonary failure, autoimmune disorders, and lung cancer. With proper respiratory protection, silicosis is preventable. Too often, employers fail to provide proper training or equipment to at-risk employees. At the worksite, save your breath by using a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved respirator. If you are injured, speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney.