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Crystalline silica: mitigating the risks

Workers in West Virginia and other mining states that are exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust may want to know more about silicosis and the risks it poses. Since exposure to crystalline silica may cause progressive and disabling lung damage, individuals that work in environments where this abrasive blasting agent is used may want to take steps to mitigate the danger.

A staple in some mining, tunneling and drilling operations, crystalline silica is commonly used in occupations that involve rock, concrete and asphalt work. Miners and other workers whose job requirements include sandblasting for surface preparation, road construction and repair, pavement manufacturing or demolition may also be at risk of contracting the often-fatal lung disease.

According to OSHA, taking appropriate safety precautions may reduce the risks. The proper use of all available engineering controls, approved respirators, water sprays and wet-cutting methods could help prevent contraction of the disease. Workers are advised to avoid smoking, eating or drinking in environments where crystalline silica dust is present and to wash their faces and hands before engaging in these activities outside of the exposure area. OSHA also recommends the use of noncrystalline silica blasting material whenever possible.

The known effects of silicosis include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and bronchitis, increased susceptibility to tuberculosis, possible renal failure and scleroderma. Symptoms include possible fever, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, fatigue, dry cough, chest pain and respiratory failure.

In addition to seeking medical attention, workers in Kanawha County and other locations within West Virginia that have contracted silicosis may want to turn to a lawyer for advocacy and guidance. An attorney that is experienced with worker injury cases could strive to ensure that an injured client receives the medical assistance and other benefits to which he or she may be entitled.

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