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More focus needed on preventing silica-related illnesses: report

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Atlanta – Stronger regulations and early-detection efforts are necessary to prevent and diagnose occupational lung illnesses related to silica exposure, according to a new research review from Emory University and the American Cancer Society.

The review focuses on three developments – recent studies that provide detailed exposure data; OSHA’s proposed rule to lower the permissible exposure limit, which is estimated to reduce silicosis and lung cancer deaths by 50 percent; and low-dose CT scanning to screen for lung cancer.

Researchers recommend that health care providers ask patients about their work history, and focus on detecting silicosis and lung cancer among those who have been exposed to silica. Additionally, workers with significant silica exposure should be offered screening for lung conditions starting at age 50 if they have smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for at least 20 years, the study states.

The study cited several exposure-control methods, including bans on sandblasting; using personal protective equipment; and controlling the spread of silica dust with enclosures, water spray and ventilation techniques.

The review was published online Dec. 10 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.