Silica and silica-induced lung diseases. Castranova V, Vallyathan V, Wallace WE, eds. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1995 Dec; :7-13
Silicosis is a debilitating lung disease caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica. Despite several decades of intensive research and effective (frequently unenforced) environmental dust control measures, silicosis, a disease of historical importance, continues to be a problem in our workplaces. It is important to emphasize and recapitulate the history of silicosis because in the past it was believed that the disease was a reflection of an individual 's peculiar, social, personal, hereditary, and economic circumstances. The disease was considered to occur as a result of the special relationship between an individual and a complex, highly peculiarized environment. In the past, silicosis and other pneumoconioses were diseases of the poor, of slaves, or of prisoners forced to work. The rampant tuberculosis prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries made a significant impact on the concomitant increased mortality of people with silicosis. Roentgenographic examination of the chest was not available as a diagnostic tool until 1885, i.e., long after the recognition of silicosis.