Te mate takawai Silicosis

Silicosis is a long-term lung disease. This happens when someone is exposed to large amounts of silica dust over a shorter time. Accelerated silicosis is when the disease comes on more quickly.

Symptoms of silicosis

Silicosis symptoms can start after 1 year of being exposed to silica dust. Some symptoms start earlier depending on the exposure.

The main symptoms of silicosis are:

  • a persistent cough that lasts longer than 6 weeks
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness and weakness.

Some people may eventually find activities such as walking or climbing stairs difficult.

Complications of silicosis

Silicosis can increase your risk of getting other serious and potentially life threatening conditions.

Silicosis can cause:

  • tuberculosis (TB)
  • chest infections
  • heart failure
  • arthritis
  • kidney disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • lung cancer.

How you get silicosis

Silicosis is caused by breathing in silica dust. It is in some types of stone, rock, sand and clay. People who work with these substances can inhale fine silica particles into their lungs.

If you work in the following industries, you are at risk of silicosis:

  • cutting engineered stone benchtops
  • stone masonry and stone cutting
  • construction and demolition
  • pottery, ceramics and glass manufacturing
  • mining and quarrying
  • sand blasting.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you work in any of these areas and have any symptoms of silicosis.

Diagnosing silicosis

If you work in the industries that expose you to silica dust, it is important to see a healthcare provider or doctor.

They can arrange tests and help you manage your symptoms if you have silicosis.

Tests for silicosis can involve:

  • an x-ray of your chest to look at the structure of your lungs
  • lung function tests (also known as spirometry) to check how well your lungs are working
  • a CT scan of your chest to look at your lungs in more detail.

Treatment for silicosis

There is no cure for silicosis.

The treatment is focused on managing your symptoms and checking to see if the condition is getting worse. It is important to stop any further exposure to silica dust.

Preventing silicosis

Reducing exposure to silica dust is the most important way to prevent silicosis.

Your workplace should take the following steps to reduce exposure to silica dust:

  1. Identify the hazardous material and make their employees aware of the hazard.
  2. Adjust the environment where silica producing materials are cut or handled. This should include adequate ventilation, dust extraction and dust reduction with wet cutting methods.
  3. Provide protective equipment such as respirators where needed.

You can also take some steps to protect yourself from any damage to your lungs.

  • Make sure you stop being exposed to silica dust if your symptoms get worse.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Take antibiotics if you have signs of a chest infection.
  • Stay active at a level that you can manage with your symptoms.