Medical Definition of Silica

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Silica: The chief component of sand and a substance responsible for lung disease and cancer.

Crystalline silica of respirable size is primarily quartz dust occurring in industrial and occupational settings in the form of fine, breathable particles. Respirable crystalline silica results from mining and grinding coal.

In the year 2000, crystalline silica of respirable size was upgraded by the U.S. government to a "known human carcinogen." There are increased lung cancer rates in workers exposed to respirable-size (breathable) crystalline silica, primarily quartz and crystabolite, that are generated during sandblasting and similar activities in an occupational setting.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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