Silicosis risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aparna Vuppala, M.B.B.S. [2]


  • Occupational exposure is the most significant risk factor of silicosis. Excavations in mines, tunnels, quarries, and underground galleries, quarrying, cutting and polishing siliceous rock, and manufacturing of silicon-based products are all associated with increased risk of developing silicosis.

Risk Factors

The risk of developing silicosis is associated with the cumulative exposure of an individual to crystalline silica.

  • Accumulated silica dose = Fraction of respirable dust × % of free silica in mg/m3 × Number of years of exposure[1]

Occupational exposure is the most significant risk factor of silicosis.

  • The most common occupations that involve exposure to silicosis are shown below:
  • Excavations in mines, tunnels, quarries, underground galleries
  • Quarrying, cutting and polishing siliceous rock
  • Dry cutting, grinding, sieving and manipulation of minerals and rock
  • Manufacturing of silicon carbide, glass, porcelain, earthenware and other ceramic products
  • Manufacturing and maintenance of abrasives and detergent powders
  • Foundry work: cast shakeout, sprue removal and blast cleaning
  • Milling work: polishing, filing products containing free silica
  • Sandblasting[2] and grinding
  • Pottery industry
  • Handling quartz conglomerates and ornamental stone
  • Dental prostheses
  • A few cases of non-occupational silicosis have been reported in communities at proximity to industries like quarries and sand works.
  • In addition to environmental, genetic factors such as polymorphisms for TNF-α gene is associated with more severe silicosis[3]


  1. Fernández Álvarez R, Martínez González C, Quero Martínez A, Blanco Pérez JJ, Carazo Fernández L, Prieto Fernández A (2015). "Guidelines for the diagnosis and monitoring of silicosis". Arch Bronconeumol. 51 (2): 86–93. doi:10.1016/j.arbres.2014.07.010. PMID 25479706.
  2. Schelde J, Authried G, Madsen HD, Perch M, Sherson DL (2015). "[Working as a sandblaster can cause silicosis.]". Ugeskr Laeger. 177 (2A). PMID 25612962.
  3. Corbett EL, Mozzato-Chamay N, Butterworth AE, De Cock KM, Williams BG, Churchyard GJ; et al. (2002). "Polymorphisms in the tumor necrosis factor-alpha gene promoter may predispose to severe silicosis in black South African miners". Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 165 (5): 690–3. doi:10.1164/ajrccm.165.5.2010050. PMID 11874815.

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