Discussions By Condition: Poisoning

Overexposure to Silica Dust and Silicosis am I at risk?

Posted In: Poisoning 47 Replies
  • Posted By: Anonymous
  • July 21, 2006
  • 08:29 PM

I would like to appogize in advance for the length of this post, I appreciate any infomation anyone can provide me.

Okay recently I became aware of a very scary and very real disease that effects people that are in construction and mining trades. This disease is one of the oldest occupational diseases there is, and yet very few people know about it, know what causes it, or know how to protect themselves from getting sick. I am one of these people. I have done a ton of research on the internet reguarding this subject and probably know as much as anyone can know based soley on internet information. So I am hoping someone with a more advanced knowledge of this toxin or someone who is suffering from silicosis can give me some information.

This is my story.

I have been exposed to silica dust without resperation several times. My main concern is the possiblity of developing acute silicosis. I have spoke with my dr reguarding this. He is not a specialist in toxicology or occupational medicine so his knowledge on the subject is admitedly very limited. I have done a lot of research on the interenet reguarding this and have not been able to come to any sort of true understanding if I am at risk or not. Most people describe actute silicosis as developing within weeks to a few years after "being exposed to a large amount of silica dust over a short period of time". This explination is very hard to understand for me. What is a short amount of time? What is "a large amount of silica dust" I have seen some of the math behind what is safe and what is not safe, but how would one determine things like a partical count or density of silica dust in the air weeks after they have left the job site. I will do my best to account my exposure and pehaps you can give me some sort of refference point. I also have many questions.

Its really sad how ignorant I was about the materials I was working with, keep in mind at the times that I was wearing breathing protection it was only a n-95 dust mask. And many times I was not wearing even that.

Occupational hazards
-worked in auto body repair over a decade ago for about 2 months.

Exposures include: fiberglass resin fumes, paint fumes and particles, dry fiberglass particles. Did not always where resperation equipment.

-worked in general carpentry from march 2006 - june 2006.

Exposures included: silica dust from mixing concrete for fence posts and moving full and empty cement bags, silica dust from thin-set tile mortar as well as tile grout, drywall dust containing silica, also tile cutting using water to suppress dust. 50 percent of this work was done without a dust mask. Do the pure ignorance over the contents of these materials.

Significant exposures inlcude.

In june 2006 unprotected exposures to portland cement prodcuts producing dry dust clouds 10-15 times over the course of a month all exposures taking place outdoors.
April 2006 broke away stucco that created dust from the exterior of a sliding glass door not wearing respiration.

June 29th 2006 a large cloud of tile mortar containing silica blew in my direction from only a few inches away while it was being mixed with water. I was not wearing respiration but heald my breath as long as I could as the cloud approached, while mixing was exposed to smaller clouds of the dust over 4 or 5 minutes. The same day I also cut many (over 30) pieces of tile with a "wet" tile saw not using respiration as I did not know it was necessary to wear a respirator while using water for dust control.
Monday july 3rd I was briefly exposed to a cloud of dry tile mortar. These exposures all took place outdoors.

Febuary 2006, 5-8 hours of exposure to dry wall dust indoors not using resperation while working on 2 houses that had been damaged by flooding. Dry wall dust was not very thick in the air as most of the material was wet from the flood.

July 8th brief exposure (under 10 minutes) to a mixture of fiberglass insulation, dry wall, silica dust, air born mold, etc. I was wearing a n95 approved dust mask, however the second band was not secured properly around the back of my head. Also daily exposure to various dusts from building materials while using a vacum to clean up job sites. May 2006 exposed to lots of redwood saw dust while fencing, over 2 days. As well as some cement dust all without wearing resperation.

June 2006 exposure to laminate bamboo flooring dust as well as other laminate flooring dusts. As well as brief exposure to old industrial ovens while moving them for disposal clouds of dust where present, I was wearing a n95 dust mask for this task. Apparently the stone slabs contained espetos.

And just this evening july 20th 2006 I was at a friends house who had tile work done a month ago, a lot of the dust and building materials including a semi open bag of tile grout was in the garage, we where hanging out in his garage with the doors closed for a good 90 minutes with a fan blowing. Of course I did not see any dust in the air, but a certain degree of panic and worry set in.

I really do hope that all this worry is just simply that.

So thats my exposure, it did not occur everyday, and at times there where a week or 2 between exposures. Sometimes it would be a few days in a row. And I have accounted for every exposure I can think of and described it as well as possible. I am not longer doing this kind of work at all, and do not plan on re-exposing myself to these materials.


1) if chest x-ray shows no abnormailty, and pulse / ox is normal will a lung funtion test show if there might be a problem forming? In other words I am curious as to which test would be most effective in determining early signs of lung disease.

2) after working I would get into my car and drive home without changing clothes. What risks are these going to pose to me and my loved ones given the reletively short time I was doing this kind of work?

3) I drove my car with the windows down for about 300 miles, would this help to clear out any potential contamination, and what is a good way to clean up areas such as my car that might have possible silica dust settled in them?

4) I am also very worried about the risks of having contaminated my car and my living space by not changing my clothing. I can even recal a time I came home from work and was so tired I just took off my clothes and layed in bed for an hour or so before I showered. I have pretty thick long hair so I wonder if that could have been a health issue as well.

5) if after I drove my car 5 hours with the windows down and a few hours after that a good friend got my car for 5-10 minutes. If there was still some conamination due to not changing my clothing after work and getting in my car would there be any realistic risk to there health?

6) does silica dust become less harmfull overtime while it is free in the environment?

7) if I have inhaled any amount of silica dust will it eventualy cause silicosis?

8) if I have inhaled silica particles will they ever be expelled from my body over time?

My main concern is obviousley ending up with a disease that is going to kill me very quickly. I realize that there are 3 forms of this disease and it seems like it could be loosely compared to someone with a smoking habbit. Its not the year of smoking that will kill you , its the 10 years of smoking. Chrnoic and advanced silicosis both fall under the catagory of exposure over time. As I do not think I am a cantidate for cronic or advanced silicosis given the information I have read, my concern is the possibilty of developing acute silicosis.

I have had some symptoms of mainly shortness of breath, but I will also admit that my concern for my health could be having some phychological impact on me. I do seem to have shooting very sharp pains in my chest rib cage and back a few times a day. My chest x ray is clear and my pulse ox has been taken twice both times read at 97.

I am also very worried about making sure no one else is effected by my ignorance to this. Common sence would tell me that brief exposures from particals that may or may have not made it into my car or into my home from clothes I that may have had silca dust on them is probably not something to worry about given that I have only worked with these materials 15-20 times total.

I have heard stories of people being exposed to silica dust once in a very large amount and getting sick shortly after that one time exposure. So I am hoping that my 15-20 times of exposure is still not considered high risk I just dont know.

I have a lung function test scheduled for next week. Any additional thoughts or information you can provide me is very welcome. I am very restless with worry over this. I can not believe I was not made aware of how badly these building materials could effect my health.

Thank you so much for yout time.

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