• Contact Us

    Environmental Surveillance and Toxicology Branch
    Health Assessment and Toxicology Program
    1100 West 49th Street
    Austin, Texas 78756

    Phone: 1-888-681-0927
    Fax: 512-776-7222

Silicosis Overview

Epitox Home Page

Hazard Alert: Worker Exposure to Crystalline Silica during Fabrication of Engineered Stone Countertops

About Silicosis

Silicosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of silica dust that leads to inflammation and then scarring of the lung tissue.

There are three types of silicosis:

1) Simple chronic silicosis

Results from long-term exposure (> 20 years) to small amounts of silica dust, which results in the formation of nodules of chronic inflammation and scarring in the lungs and chest lymph nodes. This disease may resemble chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD).

2) Accelerated silicosis

Exposure to large amounts of silica over a short period of time (5-15 years) resulting in inflammation, scarring, and symptoms that progress faster than in simple silicosis.

3) Acute silicosis

Short-term exposure to very large amounts of silica that inflame the lungs causing them to fill with fluid; results in severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.

Through passive surveillance the Silicosis Surveillance Program maintains a database of information on cases of silicosis in the state of Texas. The cases are obtained from reporting by physicians, laboratories and other health care providers. Also, reviewing medical records at physician offices and hospitals may be performed. Texas law requires that designated professionals, primarily physicians and laboratorians, report cases of silicosis to the department of state health services. The reports are received by the Environmental & Injury Epidemiology and Toxicology Unit (EIET), which acts on the information received, based on a standard protocol. Since passive surveillance, does not actively seek out cases, since 1986 the EOEP has augmented the passive reporting of silicosis required by law by conducting quarterly reviews of death certificates to identify certificates with silicosis listed as a cause of death. In addition, the EOEP also visits doctors' offices and abstracts information from records of reported silicosis cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the clinical symptoms of silicosis?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing
  • Weakness
  • Chest pains
  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Difficult breathing
  • Bluish or grayish skin color

     As disease advances:

  • Shortness of breath becomes worse
  • Cough becomes worse
  • Lung x-rays show scar tissue
  • Increases tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Because the body's ability to fight infections may be weakened by silica in the lungs, other illnesses (such as tuberculosis) may result and can cause fever, wight loss, night sweats, chest pains and/or respiratory failure.

What occupations are at a higher risk for silicosis?

  • Mining Industries
  • Sandblasting or Abrasive Blasting
  • Foundries
  • Granite and Stone Cutting
  • Construction (especially bridge, highway and tunnels)
  • Masonry Work
  • Concrete Finishing
  • Drywall Finishing
  • Shipyards or railroad workers
  • Sand and Gravel Screening
  • Rock Crushing (for road base)

What can a worker do to help prevent silicosis?

  • Avoid working in dust whenever possible.
  • Check that all ventilation systems and protective equipment are in good repair and working correctly.
  • Use the equipment and use it properly.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking breaks down the body's defenses, and makes it hard for your lungs to remove dust.
  • Shower and change clothes after working in contaminated areas BEFORE getting in your car and going home.
  • Get a regular medical checkup, with pulmonary function tests and x-rays.

Who is responsible for reporting occupational conditions including silicosis?

  • Physicians
  • Health Professionals
  • Any persons in charge of a clinical or hospital laboratory, blood bank, mobile unit or other facility in which a laboratory examination reveals evidence of the reportable disease.

How can I report a silicosis case?

  • Click here for information on how to report.

Silicosis Brochures:

What Healthcare Providers Need to Know about Reporting Silicosis

  • Target: healthcare providers
  • Purpose: to promote the reporting of asbestosis

Información sobre la exposición a la sílice en el lugar de trabajo

  • Público objetivo: trabajadores
  • Propósito: promover el estar conciente sobre la exposición a la sílice

Facts about Silica Exposure in the Workplace

  • Target: workers
  • Purpose: to promote the awareness of asbestos exposure

Silicosis Rates:

Texas Silicosis Rates 2004 - 2010

Last updated February 15, 2017