Everyone knows that construction workers are occasionally at risk for asbestos exposure, but these days, there is another lung-based permanent illness that is just as devastating and much more common – silicosis.
This illness is causes by silica, and is a huge danger to those that work around it. Also known as silicon dioxide, silica is a chemical compound that is found in a variety of natural material such as sand, rock, and soil. As it occurs in so many things we use to build our homes, a large variety of industries are exposed to silica.
Particularly when it comes to hammering or chiseling silica-heavy material, the dust can become inhaled and this is where the damage beings.
What is Silicosis?
Once silica dust is inhaled, the particles enter into small air sacs in the lungs where it leads to the chronic lung disease that is known as silicosis. Like asbestos exposure, silica particles are difficult to expel from the lungs, but also very sharp. As they sit there, they leave microscopic cuts on the soft lung tissue that leads to scarring and thus hardening of the lungs over time.
Silicosis can cause permanent shortness of breath, and dramatically increases the person’s risk of respiratory issues like bronchitis and even lung cancer. Alongside opening your lungs up for a myriad of other issues, workers with silicosis will also have to deal with other nuisance issues like coughing and constant chest pain, both of which can dramatically alter a person’s quality of life. Unfortunately, there is no medical treatment for it, as of now it can only be prevented. This is why silica is currently one of the World Health Organization most dangerous carcinogens next to asbestos and smoking.
Legal Remedies for Silica Exposure
As there is no treatment for silicosis, the only remedy that many workers have available to them is of a legal nature. Even if you leave a job where you were exposed to silica, silicosis will continue to progress even if you are no longer being exposed to the particles.
As silicosis can lead to a constantly elevated immune system that can cause a number of problems, you will need worker’s compensation to cover your medical bills. If you held a construction job or even a job that works with preparing or harvesting materials that contain silica, then you qualify for worker’s compensation from that employer if you are diagnosed with silicosis later. If they failed to warn you of the danger and / or failed to provide you with the proper safety equipment, then that may open them up to a lawsuit as well.
Furthermore, aside from collecting compensation from your employer, you also have lawsuit options against some potential third parties. This includes the manufactures of safety equipment if it is defective or failed to function properly and the manufacturers of equipment such as sandblasters that exposed you and your fellow workers to an unreasonable amount of silica dust.
Unfortunately, as silicosis can take years to manifest, not all of these options can be easy. Statutes of limitations start coming to play, but silica dust is becoming such a major issue, workers who suffer from silicosis may receive large payouts to cover what will be a lifetime of medical bills that shouldn’t be placed on their shoulders.
As the process can be so much more complicated than usual worker’s compensation injuries, if you suffer from silicosis, you will benefit more than ever from a skilled worker’s compensation and personal injury lawyer. If you have developed silicosis after working as a construction worker, contact us today to talk over your options with a knowledgeable representative.