Fear of Silicosis

10/05/2005

silicosis.jpg
The above pic was taken from a website surveying the danger of silicosis in American industry in the 30′s. Granted, my job is not sending me down in mines or anything. But, I am around lots of clay, which contains silica. So, two years ago, my school installed an air conditioner in my room, which blows air from two different vents, but there is no air intake. Meaning, that it pretty much blows dust all around my room and there is nothing taking it in… except my lungs! This didn’t occur to me as being a big deal until I developed asthma last summer and wondered what would trigger asthma in my adulthood. Could it potentially be breathing in dust?
Then I started reading articles about the inhalation of silica. I found that it causes silicosis after extended periods of time. In talking to my doctor today, she said she could not confirm whether or not my asthma was caused by my work environment, although it is a possibility. She said that I did need to be concerned about long-term effects of inhalation, which can cause lovely diseases like Black Lung. Gah!?!
This concerns me more that usual today because I’ve essentially been having an asthma attack for three days. I had a normal cold for a couple weeks and it drained fluid into my lungs. Because my lungs have been working so hard just to breathe (from the asthma), they have not been able to work the fluid out of my lungs as most healthy people are able to do. So, I had to get put on steriods and codine and inhalers with NO EXERCISE for awhile. Yes, this means no volleyball or surfing! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Turns out that a bad asthma attack could hospitalize me, give me pnemonia, or worse. Whoa. Is this related to inhaling clay in my classroom? I’m not sure. I want to guess that it is, but I have no proof. But, it raises the concern of what the long term ramifications of being around disease-causing inhalents could be.
Only recently have the effects of clay dust & related clay hazards been brought to the surface. Most of them say that it takes 10+ years in a ceramics studio to develop something called “potters rot” of the lungs. Now, there’s a pleasant thought! The difficulty with silica is that it is such a fine particle that once it gets in the lungs, it does not leave! So, it builds up over time and… potters rot. Yuck, and also AHHHH!!!
So, I’ve been researching some filter systems and am hoping to convince my school that, though expensive, MY LUNGS ARE WORTH IT! That, and I don’t want to die of a lung disease. That would suck!