Silica Exposure

Physician's Silicosis Alert - Introduction

Read and print this Introduction along with the "Physician’s Alert" (see right) and give them both to your doctor for your medical records.

To All Construction Workers at Risk of Developing Silicosis:

Many construction workers are at risk of being exposed to crystalline silica dust through their work, or because they work in areas where this dust is being produced. Crystalline silica is found in brick, concrete products, stone, rock and abrasives. The dust is released from these materials through dry cutting, grinding, chipping, blasting and sweeping. Many trades perform these tasks and are at a high risk of being made ill by the dust, sometimes many years after initial exposure. Trades affected include, but are not limited to: masonry and stone workers, abrasive blasters, laborers, painters, operating engineers, plasterers, plumbers and truck drivers.

Exposure to crystalline silica dust can result in serious illnesses - even death. Workers that breathe in crystalline silica dust are at an increased risk of developing silicosis (a respiratory lung disease), tuberculosis and lung cancer. Although most cases of silicosis are found in older workers and retirees, silicosis related deaths have been documented in workers as young as age 30.

Unfortunately, many cases of silicosis are misdiagnosed because physicians are unaware of their patient’s work history and unfamiliar with the signs associated with this occupational illness. As a result these cases go unreported.[1] Without proper diagnosis and reporting, workers cannot receive suitable medical treatment and advice. In addition, silicosis is a compensable disease in some states. Therefore, workers with silicosis may be entitled to workers’ compensation depending on the state they are in.

Attached is a physician’s alert entitled “What Physicians Need to Know about Silicosis in Construction, Demolition and Renovation Workers.” This alert was developed to help ensure that all construction workers at risk of developing silicosis are properly diagnosed, and that cases of silicosis are documented and reported to the appropriate state health agencies.

This physician’s alert will only be effective in improving the diagnosis and documentation of silicosis and related illnesses if:

While this physician’s alert deals with the proper diagnosis and reporting of silicosis cases, it is important to understand this is a disease that can be prevented.

In addition to reducing silica exposure through the collective bargaining process, BAC is working closely with the BCTD, AFL-CIO and health and safety experts in support of the implementation of OSHA's proposed silica standard, which will provide greater protection for workers.

Until such control mechanisms and a better standard are in place, protect yourself and your family by:

Thank you for your time and attention,

James Boland
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers


[1] Goodwin, Susan, “Undercounting Silicosis: An Example of Physician failure to Recognize Occupational Disease”; disertation presented at the School of Hygene and Public Health Johns Hopkins University; 1998.



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