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If you work or have worked in the mining or quarrying sector and have developed silicosis after inhaling stone or coal dust, JMW can make a compensation claim on your behalf. We have dealt with a wide range of claims for occupational lung disease and we understand just how life-changing such conditions can be.
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Silicosis is a respiratory disease that develops when a person inhales mineral silica. This is the fine dust created when materials such as coal, granite, sandstone and slate are cut, broken, drilled or crushed.
When silica is inhaled, particles become embedded into parts of the lungs that deal with oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, causing breathing difficulties.
Those particularly at risk are people who work or have worked in industries such as coal mining, stonemasonry, quarrying, pottery, sand work and foundry. Silicosis is a relatively common occupational lung disease and can lead to serious illness.
If you or a loved one has developed silicosis due to overexposure to coal dust, you will understand just how devastating the effects can be.
There are three types of silicosis: chronic, accelerated and acute.
Chronic - Chronic silicosis is the result of long-term exposure to small amounts of silica dust. This can lead to chronic coughs and causes irreversible damage to the lungs, leading to a loss in quality of life.
Accelerated - Accelerated silicosis develops after an individual has been exposed to high levels of silica dust over a short period of time. This swells the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and weight loss. This reduces a person's quality of life as the condition is only manageable, not curable.
Acute - This rare form of silicosis is developed after a short exposure to extremely high levels of silica dust. Symptoms appear very quickly and it can be fatal.
What Are the Symptoms of Silicosis?
Like other industrial lung diseases, silicosis can take years to develop.
Shortness of breath, a persistent cough, chest pains and fatigue are all symptoms that suggest you may be suffering from silicosis. A fever, loss of appetite and weight loss are also symptoms of silicosis.
In the worst cases, silicosis can be fatal, so if you discover any of these symptoms, you should contact a medical expert as soon as possible so that a diagnosis can be reached.
Who Is at Risk of Silicosis?
Silica exposure kills over 1,000 workers in the UK every year, 85% of which are 65 years of age or older. This is due to the unknown dangers of silica and no protective measures being carried out in the 60’s and 70’s
Those who are in contact with broken down coal, granite, gritstone, concrete, sandstone and slate are most at risk of developing silicosis. These occupations include:
- Coal miners
- Foundry workers
- Construction workers
Can Silicosis Lead to Other Illnesses?
As silicosis affects the respiratory system, one of the biggest risks facing those who’ve been exposed to the disease is that it leaves sufferers particularly susceptible to other serious illnesses, including:
- Tuberculosis (TB) - a condition that affects the lungs of the sufferer, leaving them with a loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss and a persistent cough
- Lung cancer - a potentially fatal disease with symptoms such as breathlessness, coughing blood and pain when breathing. Silica related lung cancer is responsible for several hundred deaths in the UK each year
- Kidney disease - an incurable disease that causes nausea, shortness of breath and tiredness
These illnesses can vary in seriousness and if you think the symptoms of your silicosis are worsening, you should contact a medical expert as a matter of urgency, so that you can be treated accordingly.
Can Silicosis be treated?
Thanks to the scarring caused by Silica particles in the lungs, silicosis is an incurable disease, however, certain measures can be taken to relieve the symptoms, which drastically improves the sufferer’s life. This includes:
- Reducing exposure to silica to reduce further damage
- Stopping smoking to improve the health of the lungs
- Having vaccinations to prevent other diseases such as TB and pneumonia
If you are having difficulty breathing you may be offered oxygen therapy that will work to improve the levels of oxygen in your blood.
In extreme cases, you may require a lung transplant. However, your doctor will discuss this with you, if it is something considered medically necessary.