Pulmonary fibrosis (PF), as many workers in New Jersey should be aware, is a lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust. It is linked with fibrosis, or the scarring of the lungs by silica dust. The mineral silica is found in sand, quartz and other kinds of rock, so fibrosis and, by extension, PF have long been associated with the mining industry.
With the decline in mining and quarry work over the past decade, PF experienced a decrease as well. However, silica can be found in artificial stone, and with more and more homeowners using this material for their floors and countertops, the number of PF cases is seeing an uptick.
Artificial stone is colorful and comes in various attractive designs, making it a popular alternative to marble and granite. Unfortunately, approximately 90% of the material is composed of silica. Workers who cut, shape and refinish it are releasing particles of silica called respirable crystalline silica (RCS), which will harm them even despite the use of protective measures, like ventilation.
The journal Chest published a study analyzing 106 cases of silicosis or PF that were diagnosed between 2009 and 2018. All of the afflicted individuals worked in artificial stone manufacturing and were exposed to RCS for an average of 12 years. The mean age was 36.2. It’s expected that many people will require a lung transplant in a few years.
Clearly, then, PF is one of the most serious occupational diseases that one can develop. From the moment they discover their condition, victims may want to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney to see if they can file a claim. The workers’ comp program can reimburse them for their medical expenses and lost wages. A lawyer may even advise victims to strive for a settlement that covers all future medical expenses, too, including any possible surgeries.