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Workers who excavate into sandstone or who work around high levels of silica dust in foundries may develop a range of debilitating conditions from their exposure to silica dust.

Diseases caused by inhalation of silica dust include:

  • Ordinary silicosis, whether in its simple or complicated stage, is defined by the formation of characteristic hyaline and collagenous nodules.
  • Accelerated silicosis occurs when there are intense exposures and is characterised by the earlier onset and very rapid progression of the disease.
  • Acute silicosis develops after massive exposures and can occur after short periods of exposure.  The condition is characterised by the presence of nodules in the lung.

Progressive massive fibrosis

Progressive massive fibrosis is often the end stage of silicosis. It occurs when the silica nodules coalesce into one formation thereby creating an appearance of progressive massive fibrosis.


A common complication of substantial silica exposure or silicosis is recurrent tuberculosis.  This disease is known as silico-tuberculosis.

Silica induced lung cancer

Like asbestos, a substantial exposure to silica can cause a lung cancer.  The lung cancer often occurs following constant exposure to silica.  As with asbestosis the development of silicosis and progressive massive fibrosis substantially increase the risk of developing lung cancer, especially among people who are already at risk due to other factors, such as smoking.

Rheumatoid arthritis and other disorders

Silica affects the ability of the body to react to infection.  As a consequence, silica exposures can lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis and a variety of other disorders related to failures of the immune system.

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