Inhalation of silica dust, particularly in larger quantities, can cause silicosis, a disease affecting the lungs.
There are three kinds of silicosis: acute, chronic and accelerated.
Acute silicosis causes symptoms such as inflammation, severe shortness of breath and lowered blood oxygen levels when high levels of silica exposure occur over a short period of time
Chronic silicosis develops after longer term exposure to silica, causing difficulty breathing, painful swelling in the lungs and lymph nodes
Accelerated silicosis can develop more rapidly after moderate to high levels of exposure, causing lung scarring, trouble breathing and inflammation
According to the Cancer Council, there is also an increased risk of developing lung cancer as a result of past exposure to silica. Silica can also cause other conditions like scleroderma which affects the connective tissues including the skin, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
It’s important to remember that not all people who are exposed to silica dust get sick. If you are worried about your exposure to silica dust, you should speak to your doctor to ensure that your health is monitored and that you get the support you need.
It’s also a good idea to get in touch with a lawyer as early as possible to get a better picture of what steps you can take if you’re worried and to find out what compensation rights you have if you become unwell. You can also register your silica exposure with us here.
What should I do if I’ve been exposed and want to bring a claim?
The most important thing to note is that there are strict time limits which apply to this area of the law.
If you’ve been exposed to silica at work, you should notify your employer within 30 days of receiving a diagnosis. Depending on the circumstances, most claims for compensation for silicosis are covered by the workers’ compensation scheme in your State or Territory and the time limits that apply for bringing a negligence claim depend on where and when you were exposed. Our lawyers can help you with any questions you may have about this.