Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler

The Personal Injury, Worker’s Compensation and Social Security Disability Group of Sellers, Ayers, Dortch and Lyons.

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Silica: A potentially fatal material in the workplace

You have been working in construction for years, and you've always been exposed to sands and concrete. Lately, you've felt like you can't catch your breath. What could be the issue? One potential cause is a respiratory illness from inhaling silica.

Silica is not typically hazardous unless it's inhaled. It comes in a number of forms, from sand and quartz to other common materials. Whenever you drill, cut or grind materials like these, the silica is launched into the air in the form of small particles. These have the potential to cause disturbances to the lungs and illnesses after prolonged exposure.

The permissible level of silica dust is of 50 µg/m3. Exposure to higher amounts than this can quickly become hazardous to your health. Exposure to high levels of silica over even a short time can cause serious or fatal illnesses. Some of the most common include:

1. Tuberculosis (A complication of silicosis)

2. Silicosis

3. Lung cancer

4. Renal disease

5. Other types of cancers

6. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

One of the more common illnesses to develop is silicosis. This is an irreversible disease of the lungs. It is sometimes fatal, and it can become disabling.

Silicosis is caused when a person inhales silica. Over time, the lungs develop hard nodules to trap the silica dust. The problem with this is that the silica nodules can grow so large that they start to impact a person's breathing. At that point, the injury becomes disabling. If the worker continues to inhale silica, the condition worsens and can result in death.

Even if you don't have symptoms of silicosis yet, it can take up to 10 years to develop. Some forms are accelerated, which means you may notice effects within four or five years. The illness is progressive, which means it will continue to worsen even if you stop exposing yourself to silica.

If you develop silicosis or other respiratory illnesses from exposure to silica, it's important to contact your attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for the injuries you're suffering from, even if it has been years since your exposure.

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