Silicosis: Ominous resurgence of an occupational lung condition reported

June 18, 2020

Glenview, IL, June 18, 2020 - A new CHEST®, published by Elsevier, documents an increased incidence of silicosis, which progressed rapidly to massive pulmonary fibrosis in a significant proportion of patients who had previously worked artificial stone (AS), also called artificial quartz agglomerate or conglomerate, a popular new countertop material, despite cessation of exposure after diagnosis.

AS is composed of finely crushed stone mixed with synthetic resins and has a high silica content. It emits respirable crystalline dust (RCS) while it is being fabricated and in cutting, shaping, and finishing in small industries, which can cause permanent and severe lung damage if it is inhaled.

The study reports on the results of follow-up exams of 106 AS workers in southern Spain who were diagnosed with silicosis or severe pulmonary fibrosis between 2009 and 2018. The investigators first reported the link between their illnesses and AS RCS in a study published in 2014.

"While 6.6 percent of the AS workers were initially diagnosed with massive pulmonary fibrosis, 37.7 percent had more advanced disease at the follow-up exam, even though they had left their jobs and were no longer exposed to the harmful dust. In a quarter of the patients, the rate of decline in lung capacity progressed very rapidly," explained lead investigator, Antonio León-Jiménez, PhD, Pulmonology, Allergy and Thoracic Surgery Department, Puerta del Mar University Hospital; and Biomedical Research and Innovation Institute of Cádiz (INiBICA), Cádiz, Spain. On a positive note, four years after exposure ended, the annual decrease of lung capacity appeared to slow down.

Silicosis, probably the most ancient occupational disease, has been traditionally related to mining or quarry work. It is caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust that produces permanent lung scarring (pulmonary fibrosis). Its incidence had decreased in high income countries following the reduction of mining activities and implementation of better protective measures for workers and dust control.

However, over the past decade, the increasing popularity of AS for use in kitchen and bathroom countertops because of its design and attractive colors has supplanted traditional materials like granite and marble. Unfortunately, working with AS has resulted in a resurgence of cases of silicosis identified among fabricators. Despite following protective measures used for handling natural stone, these workers were nonetheless injured by the higher level of crystallized silica contained in AS (93 percent) than in natural stone (five percent-30 percent).

Measures adopted to reduce the concentration of respirable dust, such as the use of water suppression and exhaust ventilation techniques, have been implemented, but harmful levels of RCS are still documented in workplaces, generally in small factories

The investigators call for more aggressive engineering controls and new treatments to be developed and tested, "Avoiding the continued inhalation of silica is essential but is not enough. The majority of patients are young people and the progression of the disease, in a significant number of them, foreshadows an uncertain future. Our findings emphasize the need to maximize protective measures in active patients and to find new treatments that may delay or curb the progression of the disease," cautioned Dr. León-Jiménez.

The worldwide demand for engineered quartz countertops continues to soar (estimates project the 2013 levels will triple by 2024). Although the first patients were described ten years ago in Spain and Israel, the number of cases has been increasing throughout the world. In Australia, the situation was considered an occupational epidemic in 2019, and the emergence of new cases in the United States and China warns that it is a global problem that likely has only just begun.

In an accompanying
-end-


Elsevier

Related June Articles from Brightsurf:

June's SLAS technology special collection now available
The June issue of SLAS Technology features the article, 'Next Generation Compound Delivery to Support Miniaturized Biology,' which focuses on the challenges of changing the established screening paradigm to support the needs of modern drug discovery.

SLAS Discovery announces its June cover article
The June cover of SLAS Discovery features cover article 'A Perspective on Extreme Open Science: Companies Sharing Compounds without Restriction,' by Timothy M.

Exoplanet exploring researchers land at Cornell June 13-14
Young researchers in exoplanet science will present research and discuss emerging ideas in the field at the second annual Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science Symposium (ERES), to be held at Cornell University June 13-14.

NASA explains why June 30 will get extra second
The day will officially be a bit longer than usual on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, because an extra second, or 'leap' second, will be added.

SAGE to launch Communication and the Public June 2015
SAGE, a world leading independent academic and professional publisher, has today announced that it is to launch Communication and the Public, in partnership with Zhejiang University.

Highlights from the June issue of GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
The June issue of GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, features a study reporting that the annual incidence rate of esophageal cancer among patients with Barrett's esophagus with low-grade dysplasia is 0.54 percent; a study showing that metabolic syndrome and smoking heighten concerns regarding colorectal cancer screening in men with these risk factors; and a new ASGE guideline on endoscopy in patients with lower gastrointestinal bleeding.

NASA's IRIS mission to launch in June
Lying just above the sun's surface is an enigmatic region of the solar atmosphere called the interface region.

June 2013 story tips
The following are story ideas from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory for June 2013.

June 2013 LITHOSPHERE now online
New papers published in the June issue of Lithosphere cover the geology of Western Europe; the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica; the Norwegian Caledonides; the Central Asian Orogenic Belt; the Karakoram shear zone and Greater Himalaya Sequence, NW India; the Garlock fault and the southern Sierra Nevada-eastern Tehachapi Mountains, USA; and the Chinese Altai.

NASA explains why clocks will get an extra second on June 30
If the day seems a little longer than usual on Saturday, June 30, 2012, that's because it will be.

Read More: June News and June Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.