Accelerated silicosis in Scottish stonemasons

Lancet. 1991 Feb 9;337(8737):341-4. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)90956-p.


A small group of stonemasons working with sandstone was exposed to levels of respirable quartz up to 130 times the workplace standard over a period of up to 6 years. Two died of accelerated silicosis, a disease that caused serious diagnostic difficulties and was initially not recognised by the doctors of the then Department of Health and Social Security Medical Boarding Centre (respiratory diseases). Previous descriptions of this disease in the UK date back to the years of the industrial revolution (late 18th century). One other mason on the site proved to have an earlier stage of accelerated silicosis and two had radiographic changes of early classic silicosis. Regulations intended to prevent silicosis have been in place in the UK for many decades and were strengthened by the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. Although the workers had been aware of a health risk from quartz, they had not been able to persuade management to take effective preventive action until serious illness had occurred. Current pressures on management to cut overheads and to achieve maximum productivity could, as in this instance, lead to neglect of health and safety standards.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology
  • Quartz / adverse effects*
  • Radiography
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Silicosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Silicosis / epidemiology*
  • Silicosis / etiology
  • Silicosis / pathology
  • Workers' Compensation


  • Dust
  • Quartz