There are thousands of cases filed by workers and individuals who allegedly suffer from silicosis or other diseases caused by exposure to crystalline silica. Silica is a chemical compound, silicon dioxide, which occurs in crystalline or noncrystalline form. Crystalline silica (sand) can be found in soil, sands, ores, rocks, flint, gravel, slate, diatomaceous earth, concrete, mortar, plaster, refractory materials, clay, limestone and shale.
Potential and actual plaintiffs are foundry workers, sandblasters, refractory workers, iron and steel mill workers, construction workers and brick and stone laborers. Plaintiffs allege the sandblasting industry has known about the risk of silicosis for 50 years. In the 1970's, the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) recommended that sand be replaced as an abrasive for blasting operations. A comprehensive knowledge of the epidemiology related to silicosis and the governmental regulatory framework is absolutely necessary in representing defendants in silica-related litigation.
The diseases at issue in silica litigation are silicosis, lung cancer, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Silicosis is the most common disease and is caused by breathing silica particles. Silicosis is diagnosed through pulmonary function tests, chest x-rays and a history of occupational exposure to silica. The medical work-up in silica cases is critical. Many plaintiffs report "simple silicosis" with no impairment or functional disability. Consolidated silicosis is rare. Defendants need an expert team that can differentiate serious from trivial claims and a legal team that can present the available state-of-the-art medical defenses at trial. Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney has successfully defended silica claims for the past several years.