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Silicosis: Then and now

September 5, 2013

Two Department of Labor videos filmed 75 years apart both show the dangers of crystalline silica dust. However, the only thing dating the older film is that it’s in black and white.

Both videos (one filmed in 1938, the other in 2013) are featured on the webpage OSHA launched to accompany its recently proposed silica rule, and are embedded below. Advocates for the updated silica rule have long pointed out that tools and mitigation techniques to reduce silica exposure have been around for decades, and the Francis Perkins video confirms that.

In the newer video, a physician sadly reflects on the persistence of silicosis – a deadly lung disease caused by silica dust exposure.

“I started seeing patients with silicosis in the 1970s, and I thought that was the last generation of Americans who would die of silicosis,” said Dr. William Beckett, of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. “But I was wrong. I continue to see new cases of silicosis.”

There is no treatment for silicosis. For this disease and others that silica exposure can cause, the old saying of prevention being better than a cure is apt.

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.


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