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JAMA Revisited
January 17, 2017

Dust And Its Dangers

JAMA. 2017;317(3):324. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.18797

In the clinic of occupational diseases it is well recognized that dust of various sorts is a menace to the health of a large number of wage earners. For 1915 it has been estimated by Frederick L. Hoffman that at least 10 per cent. of workers labored under conditions more or less detrimental to health and life on account of atmospheric pollution commonly classed as dust.1 This impurity may be of the most diverse sorts. There are insoluble inorganic dusts, including metals in a state of fine division, silica, sand, coal, marble and similar powders. Potter’s asthma, grinder’s phthisis, and the siderosis among metal polishers and others engaged in metal working are familiar illustrations of the harm done by this class of dusts, which usually produce irritation through being inhaled. Others represent soluble inorganic impurities which are more readily absorbed after being swallowed, and are dangerous because of their inherently poisonous qualities. A third class, the organic dusts, comprises such widely varying materials as “sawdust, fur, skins, feathers, broom and straw, grains and flours, jute, flax, hemp, cotton, wool, carpet dust, street sweepings, tobacco-box dust, hides and leather, felts, rags, paper, horsehair, etc. Typical of the diseases caused by organic dusts are: flax dressers’ disease, a kind of pneumonia due to the inhalation of particles of flax; alkaloidal poisoning from African boxwood by workmen engaged in shuttle making, and malignant pustule and a febrile disease among rag sorters.”2

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