Silica dust exposure is a common hazard for workers on hydraulic fracking sites and in other industrial occupations – and it can have serious consequences for your health and wellbeing. When small particles of airborne silica are inhaled, they can become trapped in the deepest parts of your lungs, and over time this accumulated debris can develop into major lung conditions. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, inhaling crystalline silica on a regular basis can lead to elevated rates of lung cancer.
While employers are obligated to reduce the safety risk of crystalline silica, the unfortunate truth is that many employers do not take preventive measures. If you’re experiencing any of the common symptoms of silica dust exposure, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim and receive benefits for your medical condition.
Identifying the Signs of Silica Dust Exposure
The United States Department of Labor estimates that silica exposure threatens over 2 million U.S. workers, largely in industrial fields such as hydraulic fracking, stonecutting, quarry and mining work, pottery, and abrasive blasting. Silicosis is the most common result of this kind of exposure, and it occurs when the lungs are covered in scar tissue as a result of breathing in crystalline silica. Currently, there is no known cure for this kind of lung damage.
While silicosis can take up to 15 years to manifest in the body and cause symptoms, extreme levels of exposure can result in death within only 2 years. For the vast majority of workers, however, the exposure to silica will fall more in the “moderate to low” range and build slowly over time.
Here are the symptoms of silicosis:
- Shortness of breath, particularly when exercising
- Signs of low oxygen in blood levels
- Sore throat
- Coughing and wheezing
- “Crackling sound” when the lungs expand
- Overproduction of phlegm
- Leg swelling
- Increased breathing rate
What Are My Options for Recovery?
Although silicosis may not be treatable, catching it early can reduce the chance of developing lung disease or lung cancer. As soon as you start experiencing symptoms of silica dust exposure, you should ask for a lung scan with your doctor. From that point, you may be able to take one of two options for seeking compensation.
In most cases, the best route for financial recovery will be through a workers’ compensation claim. This no-fault benefit does not require you to prove that your employer was negligent, and once approved, your benefits will continue throughout the duration of your treatments and doctor visits. If you become permanently injured or unable to work in your field as a result of silicosis, you may be eligible for job retraining benefits too.
In some cases, however, your employer may not have workers’ compensation insurance – or your injuries may have been directly caused by a negligent party. That means it could be a better idea to file a personal injury claim against your employer or the negligent party who caused your injuries, rather than go through the workers’ compensation system.
Dedicated Representation for Your Silicosis Claim
No matter how you developed silicosis, our San Antonio legal team at The Law Offices of Georg P. Escobedo & Associates, PLLC will fight on your behalf and help you explore all the possible avenues for compensation. First and foremost, it’s our goal to ensure that you have the means to recover from your injuries, and the time to heal and rest. Creating a customized case strategy for every client, we’ll fearlessly advocate for your needs, whether that means negotiating with a workers’ compensation insurer or with your employer.
For more information about our legal services, call (210) 807-3178 today.