Silica, silicosis, and lung cancer: a risk assessment

Am J Ind Med. 2000 Jul;38(1):8-18. doi: 10.1002/1097-0274(200007)38:1<8::aid-ajim2>;2-#.


Background: To investigate exposure-response relationships for silica, silicosis, and lung cancer.

Methods: Quantitative review of the literature identified in a computerized literature search.

Results: The risk of silicosis (ILO category 1/1 or more) following a lifetime of exposure at the current OSHA standard of 0.1 mg/m(3) is likely to be at least 5-10% and lung cancer risk is likely to be increased by 30% or more. The exposure-response relation for silicosis is nonlinear and reduction of dust exposures would have a greater than linear benefit in terms of risk reduction. Available data suggests that 30 years exposure at 0.1 mg/m(3) might lead to a lifetime silicosis risk of about 25%, whereas reduction of the exposure to 0.05 mg/m(3) might reduce the risk to under 5%.

Conclusions: The lifetime risk of silicosis and lung cancer at an exposure level of 0.1 mg/m(3) is high. Lowering exposures to the NIOSH recommended limit if 0.05 mg/m(3) may have substantial benefit.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Maximum Allowable Concentration
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Health
  • Risk Assessment
  • Silicon Dioxide / adverse effects*
  • Silicosis / epidemiology*
  • Silicosis / etiology*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Silicon Dioxide