Silica Dust Exposure May be Linked to Rheumatic Diseases

Silica Dust

Exposure to silica dust, even at low levels, can result in certain types of rheumatic diseases, according to a new study from researchers at the Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital. The study, which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in mid-April, contained data that was collected from the Danish labor force from 1979 to 2015 and involved 1,541,505 men and 1,470,769 women. The report indicates that exposure to silica dust is linked to an increased risk of autoimmune rheumatic diseases.

Silica dust is released when flint, sandstone, granite, and concrete are ground up or otherwise processed. Exposure to this toxic dust happens most often in construction or factory settings. Small particles in the dust can cause damage if it is inhaled. The dust can accumulate in the lungs and cause inflammation that causes an immune system response.

Rheumatic diseases are a class of medical conditions that cause chronic pain and stiffness in the joints, muscles, and connective tissues. There are hundreds of types of rheumatic disorders. For the purposes of the study, researchers focused on certain specific conditions, including:

  • Systemic sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Small vessel vasculitis

What Did the Study Reveal?

The study found that as exposure levels to dangerous silica dust increased, so did the risk of autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Those with the highest exposure levels were 1.5 times more likely to suffer from these conditions than people with no significant silica exposure. Out of the participants involved in the analysis, 17,000 people were diagnosed with the autoimmune diseases of interest to the study researchers. When researchers looked closer at this afflicted subset of participants, they found that a significant portion of them had held jobs that regularly exposed them to silica dust.

The data also showed that a total of 1,490 people had experienced workplace exposures. Specifically, systemic sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis were the conditions that appeared most often in the study data.

One of the researchers, a professor at Aarhus University and Aarhus Hospital, pointed out that the study accounted for variables that might have otherwise influenced the results. The professor stated that the researchers controlled for the participants who smoked tobacco, a factor that could have accounted for some of the negative health outcomes. The professor also called attention to the fact that the occupational exposure limit for silica dust is twice as high in Denmark and Europe as it is in the United States.

Future Plans

Researchers plan to look into whether exposure to silica dust impacts the development of antibodies for autoimmune rheumatic diseases. They are hopeful that the link they discovered might confirm the causal relationship between silica dust exposure and the rheumatic conditions, and that further research will help them better understand the causal mechanisms involved.

The study was executed by researchers affiliated with Aarhus University, the Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, the Department of Rheumatology, Gothenburg University in Sweden, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

What Should I Do After Silica Dust Exposure?

Whether the case is brought on behalf of a single injured person or on behalf of a group of similarly aggrieved litigants, a toxic tort lawsuit can be filed against a specific liable party in an effort to prove a case for monetary damages. This type of legal action can be taken against a defendant, such as a business owner who negligently exposed several workers to a dangerous breathable toxin that resulted in serious injuries or illnesses. Another type of lawsuit that seeks damages for a silica injury might be a products liability case in which a plaintiff or class action group sues a product manufacturer for their injuries from a silica product.

In the above example of the class action suit against an employer, a claim of negligence may be based on the plaintiffs’ allegation that the employer was careless when it allowed its workers to be exposed to dangerous levels of silica while they were working. For a case involving products liability, a plaintiff or group of plaintiffs might claim that a manufacturer did not list adequate warnings on the packaging for a product containing toxic silica.

In many of these cases for damages related to silica exposure, plaintiffs may be bringing suit against liable defendants many years or decades after their exposure. Part of proving the case depends on the ability to prove that the defendant knew or should have known about the dangers and neglected to take the necessary steps to prevent their injuries. For help with starting a claim, a victim should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Wilmington Toxic Tort Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Help People Hurt by Silica Dust Exposure

Silica dust exposure can cause health complications. If you developed a severe injury or illnesses, such as a rheumatic disease, as a result of an exposure to silica dust, you might be able to pursue a lawsuit against the liable party. The Wilmington toxic tort lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. will work tirelessly on your behalf to protect your rights. For more information and a free consultation, call us at 302-656-5445 or complete our online form today. We are conveniently located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, and we serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.