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Judge rule in favor of Silicosis class action lawsuit.

As of the 13th of May 2016, the silicosis lawsuit is underway, seeking damages for thousands of gold miners who contracted silicosis.
Some background on silicosis will be explained.

Silicosis is an illness caused by the inhalation of silica crystalline dust. This mineral forms part of sand and rock and is found in mineral ore processes such as gold, silver and copper. Silica can also be present in occupations in mining, construction work, tunnel work, sand blasting, glass manufacturing and stone cutting. When inhalation takes place these crystalline particles move deeply into the alveolar spaces and ducts of the lungs. These are the places where the carbon monoxide gas coming from the peripheral veins are exchanged with the oxygen that was inhaled.

When these fine particles reach the alveolar spaces in the lung, inflammation process is set off by the macrophage which ingest these dust particles. These macrophages are large white blood cells with the function of locating and destroying foreign bodies. The process by which a cell engulfs particles and then digests them is called Phagocytosis. 1

 

Due to the crystal-like shape of these particles, this phagocytosis process cannot take place and causes cell death. Collagen is formed around this silica particle, continues accumulation of the crystal results in fibrosis of lung tissue and formation of nodular lesions. Fibrosis is the thickening end scarring of connective tissue in the alveolar spaces.

 

In the early stages of fibrosis, one can identify small pale or dark nodules located in the upper parts of the lung, as this continues these fibrosis nodules enlarge resulting in large areas of fibrosis in the lung. Fibrosis results in no gas exchange taking place in these parts of the lung, resulting in the following symptoms: 2

• Shortness of breath (exacerbated by exertion)
• Dry, hacking cough, often persistent and sometimes severe
• Fatigue
• Tachypnea (fast, shallow breathing)
• Aching of joints and muscles
• Chest pain
• Fever

Silicosis consist of three groups: Acute silicosis, which causes a cough, weight loss, and fatigue within a few weeks or years of exposure to inhaled silica. Chronic silicosis, which appears 10 to 30 years after exposure and can affect upper lungs and sometimes cause extensive scarring. Accelerated silicosis, which occurs within 10 years of high-level exposure. Silicosis can develop in a few weeks to even decades which means it has a long latent period. A person can be exposed to silica crystalline with these symptoms appearing 13-30 years after exposure.

Patient with silicosis are more susceptible to tuberculosis, (TB) the reason for this is due to the damage of the macrophage inhibiting its function to kill off foreign mycobacteria and Chronic Bronchitis due to limitations in airflow. Crystalline silica has been classified as a “carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer meaning that it is one of the 111 agents which can cause cancer to humans. Smokers should consider quitting as smoking damages the lung

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If at work, you are exposed to silica dust your employer is responsible by law to provide the correct P.P.E. and equipment to protect yourself. You are responsible to always wear your protective gear and take other steps in further protecting yourself. The Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993 and Regulations stipulate that testing should take place annually. It also states that the Occupational Exposure Limit-Control Limit (OEL-CL) for crystalline silica is 0.1mg/m2. OEL-CL means the occupational exposure limit where illness may occur and social-economic factors are taken into account. 4