Radiographic Abnormalities in Long-Tenure Vermont Granite Workers and the Permissible Exposure Limit for Crystalline Silica
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This study was undertaken to assess the prevalence of radiographic abnormalities consistent with silicosis in a group of 600 retired granite workers who were receiving pensions. Files of regional clinics and hospitals were searched for chest radiographs taken on these men, and 470 x-ray films suitable for interpretation were located. After exclusions (women, and men who had worked in the granite industry elsewhere), 408 x-ray films were independently read by three experienced readers using the 1980 International Labour Office scheme. Dust exposures were estimated for workers hired after 1940, when the dust-control standard of 10 million particles per cubic foot (mppcf) (equivalent to 0.1 mg/m3) was put in place and monitored by the Vermont Division of Industrial Hygiene. Dust levels were initially high but were gradually reduced from 1940 to 1954, after which average quartz exposures stabilized to a mean of approximately 0.05 to 0.06 mg/m3; however, about 10% to 15% of samples after 1954 exceeded 0.1 mg/m3. Of the 408 x-ray films, 58 were taken on workers hired before dust controls were instituted in 1940, and 25.9% showed abnormalities (a profusion score of 1/0 or greater). A total of 350 x-ray films were taken on workers hired in 1940 or after, and the prevalence in this group was 5.7%. The radiographic changes in workers hired after 1940 are likely due to excessive exposures during the first 15 years of dust control. We conclude that if the exposure standard of 0.1 mg/m3 is rigorously observed in the workplace, radiographic abnormalities caused by quartz dust in long-term workers will be rare.
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