Radiographic abnormalities in Vermont granite workers exposed to low levels of granite dust

Chest. 1991 Dec;100(6):1507-14. doi: 10.1378/chest.100.6.1507.


The issue of whether low levels of granite dust exposure lead to radiographic abnormalities after a lifetime of exposure has not been settled. In 1983, we carried out a radiographic survey of the Vermont granite industry, consisting of quarry and stone shed workers who had been exposed to the low dust levels prevailing in the industry since 1938 to 1940. Films were read by three "B" readers, using the ILO classification system, which requires the identification of both rounded and irregular opacities, as well as combinations of both. X-ray films were taken of 972 workers, out of a total work force of approximately 1,400. Of these films, 28 (3 percent) were interpreted by either two or three of the three readers as showing abnormalities consistent with pneumoconiosis. Only seven films (or 0.7 percent of the entire cohort) showed nodular or rounded opacities of the type typically seen in uncomplicated silicosis. The remainder of the abnormal x-ray films showed irregular opacities, largely in the lower lung zones, which are of uncertain significance, but may be related to heavy cigarette smoking and aging, and possibly dust inhalation. In addition, total gravimetric dust concentrations in the workplace were measured; 417 respirable-size mass samples showed concentrations of 601 micrograms/cu m +/- 368 micrograms/cu m. Using previously published estimates of 10 percent quartz in granite dust, the average quartz concentration was 60 micrograms/cu m. Twelve percent of the samples exceeded 100 micrograms/cu m, the current OSHA standard for quartz. We conclude that control of quartz exposure in the Vermont granite industry to levels which are on average less than the current OSHA standard has essentially eliminated definite radiographic changes of silicosis. The significance of the irregular opacities in the lower lung zones seen on a majority of the 28 x-ray films judged to be abnormal is not clear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Pneumoconiosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumoconiosis / epidemiology
  • Radiography
  • Silicon Dioxide*
  • Smoking
  • Time Factors
  • Vermont / epidemiology


  • Dust
  • granite
  • Silicon Dioxide