Silicosis from working in ceramics

unfired pottery (Conner Museum)

In the nineteen-seventies a cross-sectional survey was conducted in the Dutch fine-ceramic industry.  Workers employed in the ceramic industry (n=3258) were examined for the presence of silicosis.  In this article, the results are reported for the area of Gouda and Maastricht. In Gouda, the fine-ceramic industry consists of small workshops. 


The Maastricht working population comprises workers of two large mechanized companies.  The survey indicated that silicosis is still commonly present in Gouda (total prevalence of 13.3%), but is relatively rare in Maastricht (total prevalence of 1.7%).  A clear dose-response relationship was found in both areas between the duration of exposure to the quartz-containing dust and the prevalence of silicosis. Furthermore, it was noted that smoking was a risk factor for silicosis. However, this was restricted to workers who were heavy smokers and had an occupational history of 20 years or more of exposure to quartz-containing dust.  In this exposure category, the prevalence of silicosis among heavy smokers was 50% higher than in light smokers and non-smokers.
(The much higher rate of silicosis among workers in small ceramics shops is probably related to inadequate local exhaust ventilation for dusty processes like mixing clay.  Potters who mix their own clay without local exhaust ventilation could similarly be at higher risk. - Ed. )

The preceding abstract was reprinted with permission from Section 35, Occupational Health and Industrial Medicine, of Excerpta Medica.

Prevalence of silicosis in the Dutch fine-ceramic industry. Swaen G.M.H., Passier P.E.C.A. and Van Attekum A.M.N. G. - Department of Occupational Medicine, University of Maastricht, NL-6200 MD Maastricht NLD - Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health 1988 60/1 (71-74).

Art Hazard News, Volume 11, No. 6, 1988

This article was originally printed for Art Hazard News, © copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1988. It appears on nontoxicprint courtesy of the Health in the Arts Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, who have curated a collection of these articles from their archive which are still relevant to artists today.