Epidemiological evaluations of the risk of silicosis in relation to exposure to crystalline silica have raised the question of whether different types of silica dust exposures vary with respect to their ability to cause silicosis. The aim of this study is to compare the risk of silicosis among cohorts of silica dust-exposed Chinese tin miners, tungsten miners, and pottery workers and to assess whether gravimetric measurements of respirable silica dust sufficiently determine the risk of silicosis or whether other factors of exposure may play a significant role. Cohorts were selected from 20 Chinese mines and potteries. Inclusion criteria were starting employment after January 1, 1950 and being employed for at least 1 year during 1960-1974 in one of the selected workplaces. Radiological follow-up for silicosis onset was from January 1, 1950 through December 31, 1994. Silicosis was assessed according to the Chinese radiological criteria for diagnosis of pneumoconiosis (as suspect, Stage I, II, or III). Exposure-response relationships were estimated for silicosis of Stage I or higher. Silica dust exposure was estimated in terms of cumulative total dust exposure, calculated from a workplace, job title, and calendar year exposure matrix, and individual occupational histories. Cumulative total dust exposure was converted in two steps into cumulative respirable dust exposure and cumulative respirable silica dust exposure using conversion factors estimated from side-by-side measurements conducted in 1988-89. The male cohorts included 4,028 tin miners, 14,427 tungsten miners, and 4,547 pottery workers who had similar onset of employment and duration of follow-up. For a given exposure level, the risk of silicosis was higher for the tin and tungsten than the pottery workers. The observed differences in the risk of silicosis among the three cohorts suggest that silica dust characteristics, in addition to cumulative respirable silica dust exposure, may affect the risk of silicosis.
Silicosis; Silicates; Silica-dusts; Risk-analysis; Risk-factors; Tin-compounds; Tungsten-compounds; Miners; Pottery-industry; Pottery-workers-lung; Epidemiology; Occupational-exposure; Dust-exposure; Gravimetric-analysis; Respirable-dust; Mine-workers; Exposure-assessment; Demographic-characteristics; Sex-factors