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They sound like the perfect couple, don’t they? Asbestosis and silicosis sitting in a tree, K. I. double L. I. N. G. In a way they are a perfect couple, but perhaps something like the criminals Bonnie and Clyde, causing destruction to whoever they meet.

These two diseases can look and feel very similar: both are located in the lungs, and both commonly being contracted in work environments. What’s the difference then? Well, even doctors can find diagnosing the difference between the two complicated, but we thought it worth trying to explain anyway. 

What is Silicosis?

It is a lung disease that occurs from inhaling dust that contains silica: a tiny crystal that is found in sand, rock, or mineral ores. Exposure to silica occurred frequently in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s when anyone from jackhammer operators to pick-and-shovel workers turned stone into dust, and thus, breathed in the dangerous silica particles.

There are three types of silicosis:

  1. Acute is when symptoms emerge within a few weeks up to a few years.
  2. Chronic is more likely to occur if one was exposed to lower amounts of silica. Symptoms may not show up for 10 years, or begin as mild, and then gradually worsen. It’s the most common type of silicosis.
  3. Accelerated silicosis shows up 5-10 years after being exposed and the symptoms accelerate really quickly.

Who’s at risk?

Basically anyone who has had any exposure to silica dust is at risk. This most commonly occurs in worksite industries like mining, construction, plaster or drywall installation, glass manufacturing, road repair, sandblasting, masonry, roofing, or farming.

Basically, if you’ve breathed in dust from a worksite, you may be at risk. That is why it is essential to always use a professional for Asbestos Testing and Removal, you just don’t always know what you are dealing with. 

Difference between asbestosis and silicosis.

Often the same people who have been exposed to asbestos fibres work very closely or in similar workplace environments as those who have been exposed to silica dust. It’s also contracted in almost exactly the same way: through the lungs.

One of the main distinguishing factors between the two diseases is the location within the lungs. Asbestosis is located in the lower lung, while silicosis is located in the upper lung. Another difference is that silicosis is a respiratory disease which leads to long term scarring of the lung tissue, whereas asbestosis is in the category of pulmonary fibrosis.

Now that information is probably only going to be useful for your doctor, but what might be more pertinent is the difference and similarities in symptoms.

Both diseases have the following in common:

  • A nagging or persistent cough.
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Fatigue or extreme tiredness
  • Pain in the chest

Swollennes is common in both diseases, though only in more advanced cases in asbestosis and is linked closer to swollen fingers, whereas it’s not uncommon for the legs to be swollen in cases of silicosis. Silicosis may also have such symptoms as weight loss, fever that comes on suddenly and even blue lips.

It’s also important to remember that asbestos based diseases may take up to 20-30 years to appear. Silica dust based diseases can show symptoms in a couple of years, but even in chronic cases will likely appear a little earlier than asbestos based diseases: closer to 10-20 years.

Are they cancerous?

While both these diseases are of the lungs, they are not to be mistaken with cancer. Mesothelioma is the asbestos-related disease which is lung cancer and is often confused with asbestosis. 

Unfortunately, even though these diseases are not cancerous, both are incurable, and the symptoms only get worse with time, often leading to nasty and untimely deaths. If you think it’s possible that you have been exposed to either of these diseases, then get yourself to a GP as soon as possible.

At About The House, we are proud to be serving the Central Coast with efficient, comprehensive and safe Asbestos Testing and Removal. We believe that this work is important, and want to keep you, our community, safe and sound!