Cases

Silica Exposure

Dedicating your life to a worthwhile trade is one thing, but losing your life to it is often neither something you’ve been warned about nor expect. Unfortunately, however, this is the case for thousands of tradespeople, union workers and others who work with silica-containing materials who are slowly losing the ability to breathe due to a fatal lung disease called silicosis.

Crystalline silica is one of the earth’s most common minerals, but exposure to it in dust form can be deadly. Inhalation of these fine particles through foundry, refractory, construction, brick, tile or stone trades, to name a few, can put workers at risk for a number of chronic and sometimes fatal diseases, including:

• chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
• kidney disease
• lung cancer
• silicosis
 

It’s estimated that close to two million U.S. workers are currently at risk of developing a silica dust-related disease such as silicosis, a lung disease caused by overexposure to silica dust that is unfortunately irreversible, progressive and incurable.

Contact a Silica Exposure Attorney

Motley Rice lawyers take pride in working with unions. With a long commitment to seeking accountability, compensation and deserved justice for injured workers and their families, we encourage you to contact us about a potential silica claim if you or a loved one have a silica-related disease due to silica exposure in the workplace.

For more information about our silica exposure cases or if you would like to discuss a potential claim, please contact silica exposure attorneys Anne McGinness Kearse or David Hoyle by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

About Silicosis

Silicosis is a fatal lung disease caused by breathing crystalline silica dust, commonly known as quartz dust. When inhaled, it damages lung tissue and results in scarring or fibrosis, which can reduce lung function. The most common complication of silicosis, and a frequent cause of death, is tuberculosis. People with silicosis are three times more likely to develop tuberculosis. 

Many mining processes, such as blasting, drilling, handling and transporting quartz-containing rock, can generate crystalline silica dust. Silica is found in sand, ores, rocks, flint, gravel, plaster, limestone, slate, bricks and other natural and man-made substances. 

Silica-Related Diseases

• Lung cancer
• Lupus
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Scleroderma
• Silicosis
• Tuberculosis
 

Defendants in Bankruptcy

In some cases, the defendants liable for a client's personal injuries related to silica exposure may seek the protection of bankruptcy courts. Defendants may include those in industries such as:

• Construction
• metal mining
• coal mining
• steel/mill work
• mining/quarry
• foundry
• mineral stone
 

Third-party defendants may also include sand manufacturers and suppliers, respiratory protection manufacturers, sandblasting equipment and manufacturers, refractory products manufacturers, grinding wheel manufacturers and shot blast cabinet manufacturers. 

Motley Rice attorneys have worked with bankruptcy courts, defendants and other entities to gain recoveries for injured clients, including handling numerous asbestos bankruptcy cases. Co-founding member Joe Rice has played a central role in many major asbestos bankruptcy trusts and on numerous asbestos creditor committees.

South Africa Silicosis Litigation

Motley Rice attorneys serve in a consultant role for South Africa human rights lawyer Richard Spoor in legal action against dozens of leading South African gold mining companies allegedly responsible for knowingly harming their workers.

On Dec. 21, 2012, Spoor filed a motion requesting class certification of more than 20,000 prospective class members—all sick gold mine workers and dependents of deceased miners who developed silicosis and worked in a mine operated by one of the 30 defendant gold mining companies. On Oct. 31, 2013, Johannesburg’s South Gauteng High Court granted the applicants’ request to consolidate actions. If certified as a class action, the suit will be an unprecedented means of recovery as very few class actions have been brought in South Africa and none has been certified.

The litigation alleges that the 30 named South African gold mining companies knew of the dangers posed to miners by silica dust for more than a century and charges them with 12 specific forms of neglect and endangerment. Among these allegations are willful disregard and/or failing to execute almost all of the steps mandated in regulations and legislation designed to protect the miners from silica dust. Read more about the litigation here.

For more information about the South Africa silicosis litigation, contact attorneys Michael E. Elsner or Elizabeth Ward by email or call 843.216.9250.

Silica Exposure and Related Health Risks

In the 1930s, the infamous “Hawk’s Nest” incident, in which an estimated 700 workers’ deaths were associated with drilling a tunnel through a high silica deposit in Hawk’s Nest, West Virginia, brought public attention to silicosis and silica-related diseases in the United States. 

Because of the serious health hazards associated with silica exposure, crystalline silica was classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 1997.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor released a short documentary titled “Deadly Dust” Silica, in which several industry professionals discuss silica dust exposure and the need for better workplace protections. In the film, Dr. William Beckett, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, states that when he began seeing patients with silicosis in the 1970s, he thought at the time that this was the last generation that would be dying from this preventable disease. 

“But I was wrong,” he stated. “I continue to see new cases of silicosis and yet there is still no treatment.”

For more on the dangers of silica dust exposure, see the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2013 documentary: “Deadly Dust” Silica.

Industries at Risk of Silica Dust Exposure

Abrasives
  • Silicon carbide production
  • Abrasive products fabrication
Asphalt and Roofing Felt
  • filling and granule application
Automobile Repair
  • Abrasive blasting
Boiler Scaling
  • Coal-fired boilers
Cement
  • Raw materials processing
Ceramics (incl. bricks, tiles, sanitary ware, porcelain, pottery refractories, vitreous enamels)
  • Mixing
  • Moulding
  • Glaze or enamel spraying
  • Finishing
Construction
  • Abrasive blasting of structures, buildings
  • Highway and tunnel construction
  • Excavation and earth-moving
  • Masonry, concrete work, demolition
Foundries (ferrous and non-ferrous)
  • Casting, shaking out
  • Abrasive blasting, fettling
  • Furnace installation and repair
Glass, including Fiberglass
  • Raw material processing
  • Refractory installation and repair
Iron and steel mills
  • Refractory preparation
  • Furnace repair
Metal Products (incl. structural metal, machinery, transportation equipment)
  • Abrasive blasting
Mining and related milling operations
  • most occupations (underground, surface, mill)
  • mines (metal and non-metal, coal)

Contact a Silica Exposure Attorney

For more information about our silica exposure cases or if you would like to discuss a potential claim, please contact silica exposure attorneys Anne McGinness Kearse or David Hoyle by email or call 1.800.768.4026.

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