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Montana road and highway workers are at risk for silicosis

Silicosis is a serious and disabling lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust. This material is found in rock, sand, granite and soil. It is also used for abrasive blasting in some occupations.

Occupations at risk for silicosis include sandblasting, drilling and crushing rock and concrete, road construction and repair, and asphalt and concrete repaving. Symptoms of silicosis include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and loss of appetite. In some cases respiratory failure can occur, sometimes with fatal results. Silicosis can lead to other serious diseases, including lung cancer and bronchitis.

Prevention of silicosis should be a high priority in any at-risk occupation. The risk can be reduced by the use of water sprays to keep dust down, effective exhaust ventilation and blasting cabinets. Respirators that have been approved for silica protection should always be used. Sandblasting workers should use an abrasive blasting respirator. Workers should avoid smoking, eating and drinking where crystalline silica dust is present, and after leaving the exposure area workers should wash their hands before smoking, eating or drinking.

When a Montana worker develops an occupational disease like silicosis, they may find themselves disabled an unable to work on a temporary or permanent basis. When this occurs, workers' compensation benefits are available to help the worker pay the bills and support his or her family. Benefits are also available to cover medical expenses, prescriptions and mileage expenses for driving to and from medical appointments. A worker who has been diagnosed with silicosis and who suspects it may be the result of occupational exposure may want to get more information about the potential legal options.

Source:, "Protect Yourself: Silicosis," accessed Oct. 26, 2015

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