Silica Exposure and Silicosis in Alberta, Canada Vernon G. Lappi, MD, Diane L. Radnoff, MEng, and Phil F. Karpluk, MD
Objectives: To study potential exposures to crystalline silica and the number of work-related cases of silicosis occurring in Alberta. Methods: Exposure data comprising 343 occupational samples were collected at 40 worksites across 13 industries. To assess silicosis reporting, cases reported to the Alberta government, claims accepted by the Workers’ Compensation Board for work-related silicosis, and billings to Alberta Health for medical services with a diagnostic code for silicosis during a similar time period were compared. Results: Workers potentially over-exposed to airborne respirable crystalline silica were identified at most of the worksites evaluated. There were large discrepancies in the number of silicosis cases found. Conclusions: Many Alberta workers may be over-exposed to airborne respirable crystalline silica, and the incidence of work-related silicosis in Alberta may not be adequately represented by the official statistics.
lberta is a western Canadian province with a population of 4 million, which has an active economy with residential, industrial, and commercial construction, oil and gas exploration and production, oil sands production, coal mining, farming, ranching, forestry, and food and building products manufacturing. Because silica is one of the more widespread and abundant minerals in the earth’s crust, exposure to airborne respirable crystalline silica may occur in many of these industries. Respirable (