Mining is without doubt one of the most hazardous occupations on the face of the Earth, or below it. There are numerous dangers that miners face, rock falls, gas pocket explosions and equipment malfunctions claim thousands of lives each year, however, even just breathing within a mining environment can lead to long term health problems.
One of the most destructive diseases that many miners face is Silicosis. Silicosis is caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica dust – a common result of working in numerous types of mines including mining for gold, coal or other resources.
Although the instances of Silicosis have been decreasing due to better safety equipment there are still thousand of sufferers across the globe. In a recent class action suite 500,000 mine workers in South Africa were given the go ahead to take multinational gold companies to court due to the pain and suffering caused by inhaling silica laden air during their tenure in the mines of one of the worlds largest gold producers.
Will those miners receive the care that they need to live fulfilled life? It’s possible – but the treatment for Silicosis and the usually attendant tuberculosis will not be a once off silver bullet – there is no cure for the condition. Those with Silicosis will be faced with a lifetime of different types of treatment.
Of course the first line of treatment is to remove the person from the environment that causes the problem. The there several ways to make living with Silicosis that much easier.
Firstly suppressing the cough that is usually associated with Silicosis is recommended – then (or at the same time) a course of antibiotics to control any lung infection will take place.
Once the lung infection is under control then long term treatment with anti TB (Tuberculosis) drugs is recommended. for those who are already suffering from the effects of Silicosis physiotherapy is also recommended.
There are experimental treatments that are being explored such as the inhalation of powdered aluminum, however treatments such as this may come with another whole set of physiological problems.
Other, alternative treatments such as those based on Chinese herbal treatments have shown promise, but they are as yet unproven.
For those who suffer from the effects of Silicosis these approaches may offer hope. The only real approach might be to limit the exposure of those who are active in mines – and that is the responsibility of mining companies