On Wednesday it was announced that Anglo-American South Africa would pay 23 former mineworkers undisclosed amounts to settle claims brought against the company after the workers contracted silicosis. The mining house remains adamant that this is not an admission of liability. But lawyers for the mineworkers are hopeful that the settlement may pave the way for payouts for silicosis victims across the industry. By REBECCA DAVIS.
Silicosis is a lung disorder caused by inhaling bits of silica, a mineral found in sand and rocks, over an extended period of time. Silica dust particles can make tiny cuts on the lungs, creating scar tissue which makes it more difficult to breathe. It's a progressive condition, and sometimes it can come on up to ten years after exposure to silica. People who are most at risk for developing the condition are those who work with sand, rock or quartz, in industries like construction, demolition, or mining.
The South African government has recognised the problem of silicosis and committed to "significantly" reducing its prevalence by 2015 and eliminating it entirely by 2030. It's a particular public health issue in South Africa because exposure to silica dust increases the risk of TB.