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Types of Pneumoconiosis

Types of Pneumoconiosis

How will you react to the situation where your occupation environment threatens your health? There exists a number of respiratory diseases caused due to inhalation of various kinds of dusts generated in workplaces putting lives of millions in question. The disease in question here is pneumoconiosis.
Rita Putatunda
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
Pneumoconiosis is a chronic lung disease caused due to the inhalation of various forms of dust particles, particularly in industrial workplaces, for an extended period of time. Hence, it is also said to be an occupational lung disease, which is a particular subdivision of occupational-related diseases that effect the functioning of the lungs. These are related primarily to being exposed to harmful substances, whether they are gases or dusts, in the workplace, and the pulmonary disorders that may result from it. The severity and type depends on what the dust particles consist of; for example: asbestos and silica, coal and carbon can lead to serious reactions, while others may not be very harmful.
The Types
  1. Coal workers' pneumoconiosis: It is a kind of pneumoconiosis resulting due to prolonged inhalation of coal dust, dust from man-made carbon sources, and graphite.
  2. Silicosis: This respiratory disease is caused due to inhalation of dust containing silica particles for a long period of time.
  3. Asbestosis: As is evident by its name, this disease is a result of continuous exposure and inhalation of asbestos particles.
  4. Berylliosis: This is caused due to inhalation of beryllium dust.
  5. Bauxite fibrosis: It results due to inhaling bauxite dust.
  6. Siderosis: This is a respiratory disorder caused due to breathing in of iron dust.
  7. Byssinosis: It affects the lungs due to inhalation of cotton dust.
  8. Mixed-dust pneumoconiosis: This is caused due to the inhalation of coal mine dust, silica dust, and asbestos fibers.
Some of the other types of dusts that cause this respiratory disorder are:
  • Aluminum
  • Barium
  • Antimony
  • Graphite
  • Kaolin
  • Talc
  • Mica
Usually, it takes several years for pneumoconiosis to develop and manifest themselves. However, sometimes, particularly with silicosis, it can develop quite rapidly, within a short period of being exposed to large amounts of silica dust. In its severe form, pneumoconiosis often results in the impairment of the lungs, disability, and even untimely death.
As far as public health is concerned, pneumoconiosis is completely a man-made disease, which can be prevented with adequate dust control and protective gear in the workplace.
Effects and Symptoms
Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis: Also known as black lung disease, it occurs amongst coal miners and people who handle coal and carbon-containing substances.
Effects
When coal dust is inhaled for a long period of time, it builds up in the lungs, which the body is not able to remove. This results in inflammation of the lungs, which then leads to fibrosis along with nodular lesions forming in the lungs, and finally, the centers of these lesions may even become necrotic because of ischemia, causing large-sized cavities in the lungs.
Symptoms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Prolonged cough
Asbestosis: This is caused due to the inhalation of fibrous minerals that asbestos is made of. The exposure begins with the baggers, who handle asbestos by collecting and packaging it to workers who make products out of asbestos (such as insulation material, cement and tiles), and people working in the shipbuilding industry, and construction workers. It usually takes about 20 years or more for the symptoms of asbestos pneumoconiosis to manifest itself.
Effects
Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can cause fibrosis of the lungs which affects its expansion and contraction process.
Symptoms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing with chest pain
  • Tightening of the chest
  • In advanced cases, it can lead to clubbing of fingers
Silicosis: This type occurs in people who handle silica, generally in the form of quartz, which is found in sandstone, sand, granite, slate, certain types of clays, etc. The people who have the most amount of exposure to silica are those who make glass and ceramic products, quarry workers, foundry workers, silica millers, tunnel builders, miners, and sandblasters.
Effects
Silicosis leads to fibrosis within the lungs, which increases progressively and impairs the functioning of the lungs. It is further exacerbated in people who smoke cigarettes.
Symptoms
  • Tachypnea, which means breathing rapidly
  • Shortness of breath
  • Prolonged coughing followed by chest pain
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Chipping of nails and bluing of skin
Diagnosis
One of the challenges of diagnosing pneumoconiosis is that its initial symptoms are of viral fever, flu and other ordinary respiratory diseases. However, timely and accurate testing of it can prevent further damages. The diagnostic procedures include:
  • Chest X-Ray: It is usually the first step towards diagnosing the disease which helps in finding any structural deformities in the lungs.
  • CT scan of chest: It gives a better and detailed insight to lungs as it is viewed from different angles and any minute altercation in the structure is reported.
  • Pulmonary/Respiratory tests: These tests check for various functioning aspects of the lungs like the rate of airflow in the lungs, capacity and volume of air inhaled and exhaled etc.
Treatment Option
  • First of all, you will be advised by your doctor to avoid further exposure to the dust causing pneumoconiosis.
  • Medications that need to be inhaled will also be prescribed in order to reduce the inflammation of the air passages and to open up the bronchial tubes.
  • In case the level of oxygen in the blood goes below 90%, you will have to make arrangements at home for additional oxygen, which you will have to breathe in according to the directions given.
  • Also, immunization with pneumococcal and flu vaccines will be recommended as a protective measure against other infections of the lungs. If a lung infection does develop, antibiotics will most probably be prescribed.
  • In case the breathing problems are extreme, the only cure is a lung transplant.
Preventive Measures
It is advisable to take some protective steps if you are at a risk of contracting this disease.
  • A protective mask should be worn when working with any of the above-mentioned material, such as coal, asbestos, silica, etc.
  • Also, governments should ensure that companies comply with the permitted levels of dust regulations.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco consumption as it aids the mechanism of pneumoconiosis.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests that the best preventive measure is to reduce worker exposure. Also regular surveillance and screening are effective measures that can be incorporated.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.