Silicosis has been described as the worst industrial health crisis since the asbestos epidemic. It is an occupational lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust while workers are dry-cutting silica-enriched engineered stone, mostly used for kitchen and bathroom benchtops.
In Australia, silicosis has become an epidemic. It is estimated that hundreds to thousands of workers will develop silicosis as a result of exposure, some of whom will experience progressive or even fatal disease.
There is no current treatment for silicosis, other than lung transplantation. However, 5 year survival after lung transplantation is only 70%, and 10 year survival 40%. New preventative strategies and treatments for silicosis are desperately needed.
The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation's Research Fellow, Dr Simon Apte, has developed a world-first test to measure the amount of silica in a patient's lung.
According to respiratory physician, Dr Dan Chambers, this test could then be used to measure the success of a treatment called a whole lung lavage.
The procedure is performed under a general anaesthetic while the patient is kept alive on a ventilator. One of their lungs is washed out with 25 litres of salty water. While this treament has promise, more research is needed first to understand more about how silica crystals impact the lungs and then to gauage whether a whole lung lavage would be an effective treatment.
Triple M Brisbane's Marto recently visited The Prince Charles Hospital's research labs to discuss silicosis with Dr Apte and Prof Chambers, whose research work is supported by The Common Good. Click here to listen to the full conversation.
Donate now to support more research into silicosis so that we can get closer to being able to treat this deadly condition without the need for lung transplantation.