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NOTE: A surveillance case definition is a set of uniform criteria used to define a disease for public health surveillance. Surveillance case definitions enable public health officials to classify and count cases consistently across reporting jurisdictions. Surveillance case definitions are not intended to be used by healthcare providers for making a clinical diagnosis or determining how to meet an individual patient’s health needs.

CSTE Position Statement(s)

  • 09-OH-01

Clinical Description

Silicosis is an occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of respirable dust containing crystalline silica. There are two forms of the disease: nodular silicosis and silicoproteinosis (acute silicosis). Nodular silicosis (chronic and accelerated) is slowly progressing and manifests as scarring of the lung tissue. It is typically evident on chest x-ray only after 10 or more years of exposure (chronic silicosis), but may be seen after as little as five years (accelerated silicosis). Nodular silicosis may present without symptoms; shortness of breath and cough typically accompany advanced disease. Silicoproteinosis (acute silicosis), a less common form of silicosis, is an alveolar filling process which becomes evident within weeks to months after a very intense initial exposure; death usually occurs within a few years of onset. Except in acute silicosis, lung biopsy is rarely needed for diagnosis, as the radiologic picture is often sufficiently distinct to permit diagnosis of silicosis in persons with a clear history of exposure. Individuals with silicosis are at increased risk of tuberculosis and lung cancer. Silica exposure and/or silicosis has also been associated with autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and with glomerulonephritis. Silicosis is a progressive, incurable, and potentially fatal disease that can be effectively prevented by limiting exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust.

Case Classification


  • Death certificate record listing silicosis or pneumoconiosis due to dust containing silica (as underlying or contributing cause of death); OR
  • Hospital discharge record listing silicosis or pneumoconiosis due to dust containing silica (as primary, secondary, or other diagnosis); OR
  • Workers’ compensation claim with a diagnosis of silicosis or pneumoconiosis due to dust containing silica; OR
  • Health care professional’s report of an individual diagnosed with silicosis or pneumoconiosis due to dust containing silica.


  • History of occupational exposure to airborne silica dust and either or both:
    • Chest radiograph (or other radiographic image, such as computed tomography) showing abnormalities interpreted as consistent with silicosis; OR
    • Lung histopathology consistent with silicosis.