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CDC: More information needed on silicosis deaths among young workers

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Washington – A majority of workers who died from silica-related lung disease were employed in occupations in which exposure to silica dust is prevalent, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the agency states that more information is needed.

Researchers found that 55 people, ages 15 to 44, who died between 1999 and 2015 because of pneumoconiosis had “due to other dust containing silica” or “due to talc dust” listed as the underlying or contributing cause on their death certificates. The report stated that a combined 30 people were employed in manufacturing, construction and production – industries linked to silica exposure. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million U.S. workers could be vulnerable to breathing in crystalline silica.

However, CDC cautioned that full job histories were not collected and it is unknown in which occupation or industry the actual exposure occurred. The length and intensity of silica exposure also was unclear.

CDC states that comprehensive information is required to “better target intervention and prevention measures.”

Thirteen of the 17 people who died because of dust containing talc had drug use or drug overdose listed as an underlying or contributing cause. The agency stated that none of those people was in a talc exposure-related occupation.

CDC also cautioned that “pneumoconiosis as a cause of death might have been misclassified” or not reported correctly.

“Examining detailed information on causes of death, including external causes, along with industry and occupation of [the deceased], is essential for identifying silicosis deaths associated with occupational exposures and reducing misclassification of silicosis mortality,” CDC wrote in its study summary.

The report was published July 21 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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