Inhaling silica dust, coal dust, and other tiny minerals is more than just annoying – it can be life threatening. The inflammation, fluid buildup, and internal scarring are often irreversible, but silicosis, black lung and other diseases like it are preventable.
Silicosis (which is caused by inhaling tiny particles of silica) and similar diseases tend to plague those who work in mines, as well as those who work with glass and/or sand. Workers should always wear a safety mask that covers their nose and mouth when working in these kinds of situations, but just any old mask is not necessarily going to be sufficient.
Different masks are intended to protect workers in different industries, and depending on the industry, the specifications they are legally required to meet tend to change. Anyone working with any kind of particle dust should be wearing a mask or respirator that includes an air filter that is capable of blocking microscopic particles down to a certain size.
But the laws that regulate the manufacturing of these masks and respirators are fairly recent. If companies are still using masks from the 1970s or earlier, they might not be compliant with the current requirements as laid out by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Even masks that are in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), may still not offer workers the proper protection. In many cases, these filters trap large particles, but still allow the smaller particles through, where they can be inhaled by the wearer.
Symptoms of silicosis, black lung, or other related diseases might show up a few weeks after exposure, or a few decades. Anyone who has ever worked with or around coal, quartz, glass, sand, etc. and starts experiencing persistent coughing, trouble breathing, and/or fatigue, should see a medical professional as soon as possible.
Those who have been diagnosed with silicosis or black lung might want to consider contacting a qualified attorney. Dealing with a chronic illness can be painful and expensive, so it’s worth it to see if you can get the party responsible to pay up. Depending on the situation, your employer at the time and/or the manufacturing company that made the masks/respirators you wore might be liable for the damage you suffered to your health and wellbeing. If that’s the case, and a judge rules in your favor, either your employer or the respirator manufacturer or both can be made to pay your medical bills for you. That includes lost wages if you have to stop working as a result of your illness.
Even if you haven’t felt any negative effects from working in an environment with a lot of particle dust, check your mask. Make sure it’s compliant with the NIOSH’s regulations, and if it’s not, bring it up with your supervisor. Hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and rectify the situation. If they drag their feet on the issue, consider calling an attorney before it’s too late.
If you or someone your love has suffered serious side effects, or even death, due to defective breathing masks, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.