August 2005

Understanding a complex killer

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by Ron Sollberger, CHMM
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"I was there diggin' that tunnel for six bits a day; didn't know I was diggin' my own grave. Silicosis eatin' my lungs away."—"Silicosis is Killin' Me," Alan Lomax

Respirable silica, a material present in cement construction products, including roof tiles, has been a known occupational health hazard for more than a century. However, because symptoms associated with respirable silica often mimic other diseases, silicosis, the disease caused by respirable silica, often is misdiagnosed. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has undertaken studies to determine how to protect roofing workers from suffering deadly diseases related to respirable silica.

Photos courtesy of the National Institute of Safety and Health.

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