In India, countless workers engaged in mines, construction and factories are silently dying of exposure to dust. This is better referred to as silicosis.
- Silicosis can be described as an occupational disease or hazard due to dust exposure. It is incurable and can cause permanent disability.
However, it is totally preventable by available control measures and technology.
- Silicosis occurs most commonly in people working in the quarrying, manufacturing, and building construction industries.
- Silica (SiO2/silicon dioxide) is a crystal-like mineral found in abundance in sand, rock, and quartz.
- It is a progressive lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica over a long period of time, characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fever and bluish skin.
- It is one of the most prevalent occupational health illnesses in the world. It is also reported from the population with non-occupational exposure to silica dust from industrial as well as non-industrial sources.
- Exposure to large amounts of free silica may not be noticed because silica is odourless, non-irritant and does not cause any immediate health effects, but long-term exposure is associated with pneumoconiosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and other lung diseases.
- Pneumoconiosis is one of a group of interstitial lung diseases caused by breathing in certain kinds of dust particles that damage your lungs.
- Diagnosis is a challenge because it is difficult to even find out if a person has tuberculosis or silicosis.
- The nodules that collect to form a mass can take up to 20 years to be identified in chest x-rays and the victim notices symptoms only after many years of exposure to silica.
- Grossly, silicotic nodules are firm, discrete, rounded lesions that contain a variable amount of black pigment.
- The nodules tend to occur around respiratory bronchioles and small pulmonary arteries.
- In India silicosis is prevalent in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Pondicherry, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal among the workers of construction and mining.