NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Silicosis in pit diggers in Serra da Ibiapaba, Ceara, Brazil.

De Barros Hatem EJ; Cavalcanti FM
Proceedings of the VIIth International Pneumoconioses Conference, August 23-26, 1988, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 90-108, 1990 Nov; (Pt II):1316-1319
Studies on the incidence of silicosis and occupational hazards of Brazilian pit diggers were discussed. The cohort consisted of 134 pit diggers living in Tiangua, a town of 40,355 inhabitants in the Serra da Ibiapaba, an impoverished area of Brazil. The diggers dug 1.50 meters (m) wide by 12m deep holes in the ground to obtain water. A conventional water supply system and natural water reservoirs did not exist in the region. Dust exposures resulting from digging, which was done with tools and explosives, were considered to be the major occupational hazard. Other hazards included falling, being buried by cave ins, tool related accidents, poor postures due to working in confines spaces, and explosive related accidents. A survey of dust exposures inside the pits found total and respirable dust concentrations as high as 141.2 and 73.5mg/m3, respectively. The silica (14808607) content of the dusts ranged up to 18.8%. The dust exposures exceeded the threshold limit values by up to 344 times. Thirty eight pit diggers had silicosis and, of these, five died within 60 days. The authors conclude that silicosis is a serious problem among the residents of Tiangua. The main solution to the problem is to provide a conventional water supply system. Although work has started on constructing a water supply system, interim solutions are needed. Recommended interim measures include implementing an extensive educational program about silicosis and how to use explosives correctly, providing respiratory protection equipment, keeping the excavation sites moist, shoring them up properly, enlarging the pit diameters to 2.5m, and providing appropriate safety equipment to prevent falls.
Respiratory system disorders; Silica dusts; Dust exposure; Sociological factors; Occupational hazards; Dust suppression; Potable water; Health protection
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 90-108
Source Name
Proceedings of the VIIth International Pneumoconioses Conference, August 23-26, 1988, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division