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Old adversaries in new places
  1. Paul K Henneberger,
  2. David N Weissman
  1. Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paul K Henneberger, Respiratory Health Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505, USA; pkh0{at}

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Inhalation of crystalline silica dust is a well-known occupational health hazard that is a risk factor for silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, autoimmune disorders and chronic renal disease.1 2 Crystalline silica is a common component of the earth’s crust and occurs in many materials that workers extract, manufacture or manipulate. Consequently, occupational exposure to crystalline silica is common in both low-income/middle-income and developed nations. For example, the number of silica-exposed workers has been estimated at 2 million in Brazil,2 3.2 million in the European Union,3 10 million in India2 and 2.3 million in the USA.1 These workers are employed in many industries, including construction; mining; quarries and stone crushing operations; foundries; abrasive blasting of buildings, bridges and metal products and manufacturing of bricks, concrete, ceramics and glass.

If there is awareness of the hazard, harmful exposures to crystalline silica can be controlled.4 However, the recognition of even a known health hazard like crystalline silica can be delayed when it appears in a new occupational setting where management and workers are unaware of the hazard. This is especially a problem in smaller companies that do not have the depth of occupational safety and health resources of large corporations.5 The lack of …

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed to the conception, writing, revision and finalisation of the commentary.

  • Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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