Acute Silicosis



Silicosis is a lung disease. It is caused by breathing dust that has crystalline silica in it. In acute silicosis, the disease happens after weeks or months of being around high levels of silica.


Silica dust can come from cutting, drilling, breaking, or grinding soil, sand, granite, or other items. When the dust gets into the air you breathe, it may become trapped in your lungs. This can harm them and make it hard for you to breathe.

Pathway to Lungs
Respiratory Pathway
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Risk Factors

Being around air that has silica dust raises your risk. Jobs that involve these tasks also raise your risk:

  • Sandblasting
  • Construction
  • Wrecking and demolition
  • Abrasive blasting
  • Masonry
  • Concrete finishing
  • Drywall finishing
  • Rock drilling
  • Stone milling or cutting
  • Mining
  • Sand and gravel screening
  • Rock crushing (for road base)
  • Agriculture
  • Ceramics, clay, pottery
  • Glassmaking
  • Vitreous enameling of china plumbing fixtures
  • Making soaps and detergents



Symptoms may appear within a few weeks to five years after exposure. You may have:

You may have:

  • Problems breathing
  • Coughing
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Weight loss


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked about your work history. A physical exam will be done. You may have these tests:

You may have these tests:

  • Pictures may be taken. This can be done with a chest x-ray .
  • Your lungs may be tested. This can be done with pulmonary function tests .

A tuberculosis (TB) test may be done. People who have silicosis are at increased risk.

Pulmonary Function Test
Lung test
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There is no specific treatment. You will need stay away from this dust. Your doctor may treat other health problems, such as airway blockage or narrowing. smoking .

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Smoking can make symptoms worse.


To prevent silicosis:

  • Avoid working in dust.
  • Use water sprays and ventilation when working in confined structures.
  • Wear a mask or respirator designed to protect you against silica for the type of job you do.
    • Your employer may give you the mask.
    • You can't have a beard or mustache if you use certain types of masks.
  • Do not eat or drink near dusty areas.
  • After exposure to dust, wash your hands before eating and drinking.
  • Park your car where it will not become contaminated.
  • Shower and change before leaving work.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration—US Department of Labor 


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety 

Canadian Lung Association 


Silicosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated March 17, 2017. Accessed August 27, 2018.

Silicosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated March 2018. Accessed August 27, 2018.

Silicosis: Learn the facts! National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at: Updated August 2004. Accessed August 27, 2018.