Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1986;12(1):32-39    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.2181 | Issue date: Feb 1986

Silicosis in a grey iron foundry. The persistence of an ancient disease.

by Landrigan PJ, Cherniack MG, Lewis FA, Catlett LR, Hornung RW

An industrial hygiene and medical survey was conducted in an iron foundry to study the occurrence of silicosis. Breathing zone exposures to respirable crystalline silica had been very high in 1977 [1 045 micrograms/m3 (geometric mean) for coremakers and 198 micrograms/m3 for fettlers]; exposures in 1980 and 1982 were substantially lower. A radiographic evaluation of 188 workers revealed silicosis in 18 (9.6%). Eight had category 1 profusion of small rounded pulmonary lesions (by the 1980 classification of the International Labour Office); two had category 2; and eight had category 3. Two had progressive massive fibrosis. Four workers without silicosis in 1977 had developed lesions by 1980. The prevalence increased from 1.5% among workers employed less than 20 years to 53% among longer term workers. No association was found between the prevalence of silicosis and cigarette smoking. Chronic cough was more common in workers with heavy current dust exposure than in those with light exposure, more common in smokers than in nonsmokers, and more common in silicotics than in nonsilicotics. A multiplicative interaction existed between dust exposure and smoking in the etiology of cough. Silicosis continues to exist in American foundries. Cigarette smoking does not contribute to the causation of silicosis, but it aggravates the attendant respiratory symptoms.