Silicosis historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


  • Silicosis was first described by Hippocrates when he reported a condition of breathlessness among miners. In 1870, the term Silicosis was first introduced by Visconti. The term was derived from the Latin word silex or flint.

Silicosis Historical Perspective

  • Hippocrates described a condition of “breathlessness” among miners.
  • In 1690, Lohneiss noted that when “the dust and stones fall upon the lungs, the men have lung disease, breathe with difficulty.”
  • Bernardo Ramazzini studied “miners’ phthisis,” among workers who inhaled substantial amounts of dusts.
  • These dust-related afflictions have been known by various names, including “miners’ phthisis,” “dust consumption,” “mason’s disease,” “grinders’ asthma,” “potters’ rot,” and “stonecutters’ disease.” These problems are now collectively referred to as silicosis.[1]
  • In 1870, the term Silicosis was first introduced by Visconti. The term was derived from the Latin word silex or flint.

Silicosis Outbreaks

  • In the 16th century, Agricola described the first outbreak among mine workers in the mines of the Carpathian mountains in Europe.
  • Several epidemics of silicosis have been reported worldwide.
  • In 1930-1931, the worst epidemic of silicosis occurred in USA during the construction of Gauley Bridge tunnel in West Virginia, where more than 400 of the estimated 2000 construction workers died of silicosis, and almost all survivors developed silicosis.[2] In addition, the mining establishment of Delamar Ghost Town, Nevada was ruined by a dry-mining process that produced a silicosis-causing dust. Following hundreds of deaths from silicosis, the town was nicknamed The Widowmaker.[3]


  1. Karkhanis VS, Joshi JM (2013). "Pneumoconioses". Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci. 55 (1): 25–34. PMID 23798087.
  2. Greenberg MI, Waksman J, Curtis J (2007). "Silicosis: a review". Dis Mon. 53 (8): 394–416. doi:10.1016/j.disamonth.2007.09.020. PMID 17976433.
  3. "Silicosis".

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