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Pulmonary Fibrosis

Fiberglass dust & Silicosis

10/08/2008

Question:

One of the previous questions about inhaling fiberglass dust caught up my attention, where Someone said that after inhaling it, he got sick. Well, me too. I have inhaled dust of fiberglass traces. I am aware that the dust particles of fiberglass are different in size from the fibers of fiberglass themselves. Because the fiberglass fibers are reduced up to be exactly/almost like talcum powder. I have been exposed to this dust for more than six months without a protective mask and I`m actually presenting shortness of breath that won`t go away and I produce phlegm gray in color with black particles. Questions: 1- Can inhaling the dust (small particles like powder) of fiberglass produce silicosis? 2- and what is the reason of presenting grey sputum? (I`m not a smoker). Thanks.

Answer:

Most people with fiberglass inhalation do not get silicosis, but if there were very small fiberglass particles (essentially fiberglass dust), then it would be possible. Most fiberglass particles are much larger than typical silica particles from (for example) sand dust. The larger fiberglass particles usually lodge in the airways and do not make it all the way to the alveoli, which are the tiny air spaces at the end of the airways. Silicosis usually requires that the particles get all the way down to the alveoli to cause silicosis.

Most people with a great deal of fiberglass exposure get bronchitis-like symptoms with productive cough for a few weeks or months after the exposure. The gray sputum is from mucus secreted into the airways from the irritation of the airways from the fiberglass particles.

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Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University