Definition of Silicosis

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Silicosis: A form of lung disease resulting from occupational exposure to silica dust over a period of years. Silicosis causes slowly progressive fibrosis of the lungs, impairment of lung function and a tendency to tuberculosis of the lungs.

Crystalline silica of respirable size is primarily quartz dust occurring in industrial and occupational settings in the form of fine, breathable particles. Respirable crystalline silica results from mining and grinding coal.

In the year 2000, crystalline silica of respirable size was upgraded by the U.S. government to a "known human carcinogen." There are increased lung cancer rates in workers exposed to respirable-size (breathable) crystalline silica, primarily quartz and crystabolite, that are generated during sandblasting and similar activities in an occupational setting.

Silicosis can progress even after a person is no longer exposed to the dust, causing severe shortness of breath years later. The more years of exposure to dust, the greater the risk of the disease. Because there is no effective treatment for silicosis, prevention through exposure control is essential. Managing the dust and preventing the inhalation of particles through the use of filtered air supplies can help reduce the risk of silicosis.

Also known as silicatosis, pneumosilicosis, stone-mason's disease.


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