Acute Silicosis



Silica dust can come from cutting, drilling, breaking, or grinding soil, sand, granite, or other items. The silica dust gets trapped in the lungs when it gets in the air that people breathe.

Pathway to Lungs
Respiratory Pathway
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Risk Factors

The risk is higher in people who spend time around air that has silica dust in it. Jobs that involve these tasks also raise the risk:

  • Sandblasting or rock crushing (for road base)
  • Construction or masonry
  • Wrecking and demolition
  • Abrasive blasting
  • Concrete or drywall finishing
  • Mining or rock drilling
  • Stone milling or cutting
  • Sand and gravel screening
  • 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.

A person may have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Weight loss


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. The doctor may also ask about work history. A physical exam will be done.

Pictures may be taken to look for signs of damage. This can be done with a chest x-ray.

Pulmonary Function Test
Lung test
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There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to avoid silica dust so the lungs do not get damaged more. To help with breathing the doctor may advise:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Medicines to help air flow, ease cough, or treat infection
  • Oxygen therapy to support breathing
  • Lung rehabilitation
  • A lung transplant


The risk of this problem may be lowered by:

  • Avoiding air that has silica dust in it
  • Wearing a mask or respirator on the job to avoid breathing in air that has silica dust in it
  • Working in well-ventilated places

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.