Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by exposure to crystalline silica. Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth's crust and is a major component of sand, rock, and mineral ores. Exposure to dust that contains particles of crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which reduces the lungs' ability to function properly.

There are three types of silicosis, depending on the concentration of crystalline silica to which a worker has been exposed:

Acute silicosis occurs where exposures are the highest and can cause symptoms to develop within a few weeks or up to 5 years.
  Accelerated silicosis results from higher exposures and develops over 5-10 years.
  Chronic silicosis usually occurs after 10 or more years of exposure.

Some of the symptoms of silicosis include:

shortness of breath
  severe cough
  loss of appetite
  chest pains

A medical examination that includes a complete work history and a chest X-ray is the only way to determine if a person has silicosis. There is no cure for the disease, but its impact on one’s health can be reduced if one stops smoking, treats infections promptly, and receives vaccinations against pneumonia and influenza.

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