Long-term exposure to silica dust increases risk of death in industrial workers

April 17, 2012

Industrial workers who have been chronically exposed to silica dust are at substantially higher risk of death from all causes than workers who have not been exposed. Furthermore, the risk of death, especially from lung and cardiovascular diseases increases with increasing exposure, according to a study from Chinese researchers published in this week's PLoS Medicine.

The researchers, led by Weihong Chen from the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, studied 74,040 workers who were employed for at least one year at 29 different Chinese metal mines and pottery factories between 1960 and 1974, and then followed up until the end of 2003.

The researchers found that death from all causes was higher among workers exposed to silica dust compared to workers who were not exposed to silica dust (993 versus 551 deaths per 100,000 person-years). In addition, increasing exposure increased the risk of death from all causes, , respiratory tuberculosis, and .

Importantly, the researchers found that at silica concentrations at or below the workplace exposure limit set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (0.1mg/m3 ), there were many more deaths (up to 11 times more) than in the general population. Furthermore, the researchers estimated that in 2008, 4.2% of deaths among industrial workers in China were attributable to silica dust exposure.

The authors conclude: "Long-term silica dust exposure was associated with substantially increased mortality among . The increased risk was observed not only for deaths due to respiratory diseases and , but also for deaths due to cardiovascular disease."

They add: "Findings from this study have important public health implications for improving occupational safety among those exposed to silica dust in China and around the world."

More information: Chen W, Liu Y, Wang H, Hnizdo E, Sun Y, et al. (2012) Long-Term Exposure to Silica Dust and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Chinese Workers: A Cohort Study. PLoS Med 9(4): e1001206. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001206

Related Stories

Increased clumsiness in former welders

February 6, 2012

Welders who are exposed to manganese from welding fumes, risk developing increased clumsiness – and the result may remain decades after exposure has ceased. This is the finding of a study at the University of Gothenburg, ...

Recommended for you

New weapon in the fight against malnutrition

August 4, 2015

UBC scientists have opened the doors to new research into malnutrition by creating an animal model that replicates the imbalance of gut bacteria associated with the difficult-to-treat disease.

Can four fish oil pills a day keep the doctor away?

July 7, 2015

Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the U.S. because of the perceived cardiovascular benefits of the omega-3 it contains. However, scientific findings on its effectiveness have been conflicting. New ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.