Pneumoconiosis Causes

Pneumoconiosis can manifest itself when a person has inhaled one or more of a range of substances (often forms of dust) and these substances collect in the alveoli or air sacs in the lung. The presence of the substance in the lung can cause an inflammatory reaction that can turn the normal elastic lung wall into fibrous scar tissue which, over time, can cause the lung to loose elasticity and impair lung function in the sufferer. Depending on the volume and toxicity of the dust particles in the lung, infection and the severity of pneumoconiosis can be accelerated if symptoms are not treated.

Due to the wide range of industrial diseases that are included in the term pneumoconiosis, there are a number of different agents that when inhaled can potentially bring about cases of pneumoconiosis.

The inhalation of silica dust is the most prevalent cause of pneumoconiosis and this is prevalent among workers in mining and pottery making – just 0.2 ounces of silica in the lung can bring about silicosis (a form of pneumoconiosis). This type of pneumoconiosis is normally developed over a number of year’s exposure to the dust. The same can be said for the inhalation of graphite, tin, chromate, barium, iron, and coal dusts.

However, for people that are exposed to asbestos or beryllium (even over short periods of time) there is a risk of developing asbestosis or berylliosis respectively. These types of pneumoconiosis can be very severe even with low exposure time and asbestosis has also been linked with cancer of the lungs.

Further non-organic substances such as sulphur dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, chloride and acid, when absorbed by the lung have also been known to cause lung disease. The substances can scar delicate lung tissue and contribute to a build up of fluid in the lungs which can be very dangerous to the sufferer.

Organic dusts such as spores of molds from hay, malt, mushrooms, and barley can cause a severe allergic response in the sufferer if exposed for a prolonged period of time and this can produce lung disease. Byssinosis which is a form of pneumoconiosis that is prevalent in the textiles industry can be caused by the inhalation of fibres of cotton, flax, or hemp which promote the release of histamines that effectively narrow the air passages causing difficulty in breathing.