Objectives: To describe the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of an outbreak of occupational silicosis and the associated working conditions.
Methods: Cases were defined as men working in the stone cutting, shaping, and finishing industry in the province of Cádiz, diagnosed with silicosis between July 2009 and May 2012, and were identified and diagnosed by the department of pulmonology of the University Hospital of Puerto Real (Cádiz). A census of workplaces using quartz conglomerates was carried out to determine total numbers of potentially exposed workers. A patient telephone survey on occupational exposures and a review of medical records for all participants were conducted.
Results: Silicosis was diagnosed in 46 men with a median age of 33 years and a median of 11 years working in the manufacturing of countertops. Of these cases, 91.3% were diagnosed with simple chronic silicosis, with an abnormal high-resolution computerized tomography (HRCT) scan. One patient died during the study period. Employer non-compliance in prevention and control measures was frequently reported, as were environmental and individual protection failures.
Conclusions: The use of new construction materials such as quartz conglomerates has increased silicosis incidence due to intensive occupational exposures, in the context of high demand fuelled by the housing boom. This widespread exposure poses a risk if appropriate preventive measures are not undertaken.