Silicosis Described

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Summary Statement

Silicosis is an incurable lung disease caused by inhalation of dust that contains free crystalline silica. Overexposure to dust that contains microscopic particles of crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which reduces the lungs ability to extract oxygen from the air we breathe. Typical sand found at the beach does not pose a silicosis threat. Despite all efforts to prevent it, silicosis still afflicts tens of millions of workers in hazardous occupations and kills thousands of people every year, everywhere in the world. With its potential to cause progressive and permanent physical disability, silicosis continues to be one of the most important occupational health illnesses in the world. The experience of some countries has convincingly demonstrated that it is possible to reduce significantly the incidence of silicosis with well-organized prevention programs (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States). In the absence of effective specific treatment of silicosis, the only way to protect workers' health is the control of exposure to silica-containing dusts. The successful prevention of silicosis is clearly the result of a range of preventive measures. At the national level, laws and regulations, enforcement of occupational exposure limits and technical standards, technical advisory services, an effective system of inspection, a well-organized reporting system, and a national action programme involving governmental agencies, industry and trade unions constitute the necessary elements of a sound infrastructure which is needed to prevent silicosis successfully. At the enterprise level, application of appropriate technologies to avoid the formation of silica-containing dust, use of engineering methods of dust control, compliance with exposure limits and technical standards, surveillance of the work environment to assess effectiveness of preventive measures, surveillance of workers' health to detect early stages of silicosis, use of personal protective equipment (as a temporary measure), as well as health education, information and training are imperative for successful prevention.

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Safety and Health Trainers