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Rew333

Very paranoid about Silicosis

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Hi All! I love this forum, long time lurker :)

So...I have FINALLY grown up at age 31 and am paranoid about silicosis.

I am a full time potter - I have a small studio shed in my backyard. I started full time in 2015 and I am a messy person, so did not take very good precautions in studio. For the first year, I only used store bought wet glaze and I have never ever dry mixed my own clay. Only made slab work from bags of pre-made clay.  But I have left dry bits of clay lying around and didn't regularly clean my slab roller/canvas. 
From 2016 to present I started slip casting which is dusty and a pain due to the drips and clay collecting on the mold. I wasn't careful here either plus I started mixing my own glazes (very small quantities of 1 litre at a time a couple of times a month using a bought base glaze powder, a mason stain and water).
From 2017 to present I wisened up slightly and wore a proper respirator at ALL times, replacing the filters etc. I also used to smoke on occasional weekends and quit a year ago (yey, more growing up and not think I am invincible!).
So I've had about 5 years dust exposure full time in my studio, but wore a mask full time for half that time. Was occasional smoker also.
Due to my paranoia and a more profitable venture, I have decided to cease making pottery and I now only make tiny porcelain jewellery which creates VERY little dust and is extremely easy to clean and control. I am getting rid of the shelves in my studio, attacking every inch with a wet mop and opening the door wide during these summer days to get rid of contaminated air.
I feel no symptoms whatsoever so when I called the doctor for a reference for a chest CT he said there's no point as I will be subjecting myself to a dose of radiation for no reason, and even if something DID show up, there's no cure anyway so don't bother with the x-ray or CT.
I've now become super neurotic and paranoid, and I am thinking about this all of the time. I rarely get coughs/sick but if I do in the future I'll suspect the worst! I've become way too aware of my breathing also and it's creeping me out a bit. I have read up a TON about silicosis this month and it seem to effect miners, sandblasters, demolition workers a lot more, especially in developing countries, over many years. They seem to be exposed to far greater amounts of silica dust than your average potter. But I know it effects everybody very differently. My partner's grandfather now has bad lung issues due to years of woodworking with no mask, but he has lived a very good life up to now and he is almost 90! I also read it is quite uncommon in people under 50, but I hope to have a nice retirement with my partner where we can go for walks. I also read about Indian coal miners who suffered far less due to consuming a special sugar called jaggary which apparently is great for clearing out your respiratory system?!
So, my hope is that my few years exposure won't cause  too much trouble. If it effects me in my 80s, I don't really mind as I'm sure something else will get me before then!
Do you know any potters with silicosis? How old were they? Is it common? Do you get chest x-rays/CTS etc? Am I being too neurotic or am I now finally being responsible and minimising any further damage?

Thank you!! Greetings from Ireland :) 

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No reason to worry.  And I don't think drinking sugar will help :)

Silicosis is something that takes a career to develop.  It is accumulative since your body can't rid itself of the silica, but takes years of exposure.  A CT scan is ridiculous, even an x-ray is silly, and without any symptom won't be covered by insurance anyway.  Listen to your doctor, he knows more than some internet potters ;)

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Haha thank you both!

How could I go from such a care-free, irresponsible smoking/drinking potter to a neurotic mess....! 
Last April I was visiting my partner in Paris and I caught a cold from a friend a few days previous. My sister messaged me and told me she was in the countryside of Ireland and visited a potter's studio, and it was immaculately clean. He told her the dust was very dangerous and he had to keep his studio very clean, plus, he had employees. He was a 50 something year old smoker, been making pottery for decades. My far more responsible sister messaged me and told me all about this, and I started to grow concerned, despite already knowing about silicosis but not giving it much thought at all.
That night, we went for drinks around the city of Paris and I woke up the next day with a horrific chest infection. I had heard of many people getting chest infections quite often, but I've never gotten one and this was awful. Hurt to breathe. Convinced I had silicosis. The infection cleared up on it's own fully after 2 weeks, with dramatic improvement after a week, no antibiotics. But it scared me so bad and now I am neurotic!

So there's my life story, haha! Moreover, if I wasn't a potter and worried about silica, I probably never would have quit smoking, so there's that....

I'm glad it happened though because now I will implement much safer studio practice because for a while, I was real bad...

Edited by Rew333
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HI and welcome out into the light!

No, I don't think I personally have met anyone with silicosis. At least not that they ever told me. I've known two potters to die of heart attacks, and one of cancer not related to silica.

Since it sounds like you've done the reading on who gets silicosis, you know the timeframes under which it occurs.  It doesn't sound to me like you've hit that at all, and more importantly, neither does your doctor. Potters have known for a long time that a clean studio is the best way to combat OHS issues. You've expressed pride in he fact that you've started to do some more "grown up" things in your life at the ripe old age of 31. Keep going then, and include some good housekeeping routines in your clay practice. Crank the tunes while you mop the floor!

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3 minutes ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

HI and welcome out into the light!

No, I don't think I personally have met anyone with silicosis. At least not that they ever told me. I've known two potters to die of heart attacks, and one of cancer not related to silica.

Since it sounds like you've done the reading on who gets silicosis, you know the timeframes under which it occurs.  It doesn't sound to me like you've hit that at all, and more importantly, neither does your doctor. Potters have known for a long time that a clean studio is the best way to combat OHS issues. You've expressed pride in he fact that you've started to do some more "grown up" things in your life at the ripe old age of 31. Keep going then, and include some good housekeeping routines in your clay practice. Crank the tunes while you mop the floor!

Haha thank you!! The cleaning is also a good work out and breaks up the long periods of sitting whilst working, another thing to be mindful of...!

I think some people take longer to mature than others...! I was reading forums where exasperated older construction workers said the lads under 30 rarely wore their masks. 
Some people on ceramics forums talk about clay dust like it is radioactive so that can instill a lot of fear. I think one can channel that fear into something positive by taking precautions but it can also be negative, making people extremely neurotic...having a significant impact on mental health etc.

After reading tons of these comments and having flashbacks to my dirty studio I became progressively more paranoid and frightened which could have had a significant effect on my mental health, and perhaps others who read about it. Iv'e seen come terrified posts from people who had one exposure to dust and thought they were done for after reading about silicosis! 

I want to find the line between not being overly neurotic and practicing good studio hygiene.

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2 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

Think about all of the silica in the air in dry sandy environments!  That was always my first thought.

Indeed! I imagine living in some parts of California or Nevada to be very dusty...I've heard the accounts from Burning Man and Coachella!

Reading more stuff....some people seem to keep their studio spotlessly clean at ALL times, cleaning as they go constantly...I have no idea how they get much work done...

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2 minutes ago, Rew333 said:

Indeed! I imagine living in some parts of California or Nevada to be very dusty...I've heard the accounts from Burning Man and Coachella!

Reading more stuff....some people seem to keep their studio spotlessly clean at ALL times, cleaning as they go constantly...I have no idea how they get much work done...

I usually clean once a week and just try to keep clay bits in buckets, not laying around to dry up.  I mix glazes outside and wear a respirator when cleaning or mixing.  Sometimes wear one while trimming if the clay is on the hard side of leather hard 

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Just now, liambesaw said:

I usually clean once a week and just try to keep clay bits in buckets, not laying around to dry up.  I mix glazes outside and wear a respirator when cleaning or mixing.  Sometimes wear one while trimming if the clay is on the hard side of leather hard 

Sounds good! Do you think it is a good idea to open studio door to the outside air on non-windy days to clear out contaminated air? I reckon due to my poor practice that there is a lot of airborne silica in my studio so I want to keep my studio clean and dust free from now on to not create new dust, whilst trying to get rid of the silica that is already in the air.

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6 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

Yeah fresh air is always good, I also throw in a shed studio and I always have the doors open, just because it's nice to look up and see some nature once in a while!

I can only do that June-Sept in Ireland due to cold!! I'm airing out the studio right now as I type invoices and search this great forum...and STOP procrastinating by reading excessive amounts about silicosis!

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It's easy to get caught up in the fear mongering that can be found on some blogs, websites etc. Like others have said it really doesn't sound like you were in a situation where you were exposed for long enough to develop chronic, accelerated nor acute silicosis. Don't go and give yourself a phobia, make some pots and enjoy what you are doing.

To answer your other question about if we know anybody who has/had silicosis and X-rays and CT scans. I don't know anybody that has had silicosis. I have had chest a CT scan plus a chest Xray every 3 years but that is because of breast cancer follow up. No silicosis evidence on either CT or Xray scans.

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I have been subjected to  silica dust for 45 years-some of that time it was heavy. You are being crazy about such a small  time exposure .

There are no tests for silicosis -the scans you mention will not show you anything about the clay dust. If you are serious about your lungs as I am have a lung diffusion test.Mopst never need this test.

This test tells you how your lungs are processing air. You see when you get a silicosis or black lung or asbestos diagnosis you are toast at that point and there are no tests until you have it. NONE. nThe lung diffusion test is the only test that tells you where you stand to others in your age group. I had one at age 55 and had the lungs of a 45 year old (I'm a diver and use my lungs under presure so they get worked out more than say landlubber topsiders). I am scheduled for a lung diffusion test later this year to check up after 10 years ago test.

Clay dust since 2015 is not worth thinking about in my opinion .

( Am I being too neurotic) YES you are

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rew, it only takes a few minutes to keep the studio clean, or, at least cleaner than it is now.    if you have a kitchen timer, set it for 15 minutes and begin washing down your horizontal surfaces putting things away as you get to them.   bet you will be surprised when the timer goes off and you see how much you got done in such a short time.

getting my kids to clean by color worked for them.   pick up everything that is blue.   now red, now yellow.  that was when they had colorful toys.    a timer works for me.

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4 hours ago, Min said:

With all due respect, tests for silicosis can include Xray and CT scans.

https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/professional/pulmonary-disorders/environmental-pulmonary-diseases/silicosis

Min I do not think they can give any earliy exposure details-only show in advanced  states.The lung difusion test gives you a number on how your lungs are elastic  compared to others in  your age group. I'm not saying those other tests cannot  aid the diagnose they can. All the lung diseases are hard to get any early detection. I read about the lung difusion test in a tarde journal for workers in silica exposure situations -more sever than potters.Most lung deaseases are terminal by the time the patient learns they have one.That becuase the tests are not that good yet.Or thats what My doctor told me.It's also what I read as well.

I have also had the chest xray  but it was for other issues to rule out

I tend to hear more about toxic clay dust from folks now than say 30 years ago-I think people are over thinking the exposure. Just a few simple precautions .

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I think x-ray and ct scan are to diagnose the condition, you know, after the patient shows symptoms, not as a prophylactic.  I mean to some degree every Potter has some degree of buildup in their lungs, there's no getting around that.  But I don't think an x-ray of the lungs would be like a meter showing how close you are to getting silicosis.  

When I was in elementary, middle school and college the extent of our silica exposure education was a quick "try not to breathe in clay dust".  I wonder if that has changed, because a LOT of people are very worried.  Never met anyone in my industry with silicosis but it is one of the industries with traditionally heavy exposure.  Who knows, just do your best to avoid making or breathing dust and don't get too paranoid, it's not trying to kill you, it just doesn't know any better :lol:

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11 hours ago, Rew333 said:

I've now become super neurotic and paranoid, and I am thinking about this all of the time. I rarely get coughs/sick but if I do in the future I'll suspect the worst! 

Which may be what needs to be addressed more than the fear of silicosis. (i.e anxiety becoming an impairment, not just a passing bit of worry.)

 

11 hours ago, Rew333 said:

I want to find the line between not being overly neurotic and practicing good studio hygiene.

And thus, you have identified and defined the work you need to do at this point in time!!  Willingness is the key. 

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I can remember mix clay in collage (as a work sgtudy student job) and it was so dusty we had to leave the shed until it cleared out-there where no dust masks in the early 70's like today or at least they where not provided. I hold no ill will on the school as tnose where simpler times and since then endless lawsuits are now the mainstay-so folks cannot do things whutout running it thru legal first.

Dust we know its not good so just practice good contol methods. Now I have studio central vac stsyem and a aiedust cleaner for the studio air-all uinheard of in  the start of my carreer as a potter.If I die from silicosis its my fault but I;'m not worring about it as we all come to and end. I lost a close friend to a lung disease and know a bit about them and as I stated by the time you get diagonosed you are most likey toast.

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22 hours ago, Min said:

It's easy to get caught up in the fear mongering that can be found on some blogs, websites etc. Like others have said it really doesn't sound like you were in a situation where you were exposed for long enough to develop chronic, accelerated nor acute silicosis. Don't go and give yourself a phobia, make some pots and enjoy what you are doing.

To answer your other question about if we know anybody who has/had silicosis and X-rays and CT scans. I don't know anybody that has had silicosis. I have had chest a CT scan plus a chest Xray every 3 years but that is because of breast cancer follow up. No silicosis evidence on either CT or Xray scans.

Thanks Min! Glad to hear you are well! Some of the stuff I was reading was terrifying, like people acting as if the dust would burn your skin or something! It can really lead you down the rabbit hole. It does seem to be FAR more prevalent in coal minors and workers who grind 90 percent silica rocks with no mask etc., especially those poor workers in India and China :(
I'd imagine, perhaps, in a pottery workshop it would take many, many years of exposure and even still, it may never develop.
I will continue making pots and keeping my studio very clean. I put linoleum over my shelves and removable plywood on top so I can wipe everything down super easy. No air purifier but I leave the door wide open for hour after the studio has been cleaned to let some clean, fresh air circulate. I wear my mask too.  I'm sure that'll be good enough...!

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21 hours ago, Mark C. said:

I have been subjected to  silica dust for 45 years-some of that time it was heavy. You are being crazy about such a small  time exposure .

There are no tests for silicosis -the scans you mention will not show you anything about the clay dust. If you are serious about your lungs as I am have a lung diffusion test.Mopst never need this test.

This test tells you how your lungs are processing air. You see when you get a silicosis or black lung or asbestos diagnosis you are toast at that point and there are no tests until you have it. NONE. nThe lung diffusion test is the only test that tells you where you stand to others in your age group. I had one at age 55 and had the lungs of a 45 year old (I'm a diver and use my lungs under presure so they get worked out more than say landlubber topsiders). I am scheduled for a lung diffusion test later this year to check up after 10 years ago test.

Clay dust since 2015 is not worth thinking about in my opinion .

( Am I being too neurotic) YES you are

Haha thanks! I guess I was worried also cos I was a smoker, which makes everything worse! I am glad to hear you are so healthy!! My lungs are recovering from smoking (I will NEVER smoke again) and I'm exercising  more so I hope to build up my lung capacity. So glad I gave up by age 30. I'll continue to keep my studio super clean but I won't be neurotic!

When do you think somebody should be concerned? For example, if they worked with clay for 40 years, very often mixing dry clay and glaze and sanding with no mask ever? 

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15 hours ago, oldlady said:

rew, it only takes a few minutes to keep the studio clean, or, at least cleaner than it is now.    if you have a kitchen timer, set it for 15 minutes and begin washing down your horizontal surfaces putting things away as you get to them.   bet you will be surprised when the timer goes off and you see how much you got done in such a short time.

getting my kids to clean by color worked for them.   pick up everything that is blue.   now red, now yellow.  that was when they had colorful toys.    a timer works for me.

Thanks so much! I've learned now to clean a little every day, and not wait for the mess to build up so much that it is a colossal task!

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14 hours ago, liambesaw said:

I think x-ray and ct scan are to diagnose the condition, you know, after the patient shows symptoms, not as a prophylactic.  I mean to some degree every Potter has some degree of buildup in their lungs, there's no getting around that.  But I don't think an x-ray of the lungs would be like a meter showing how close you are to getting silicosis.  

When I was in elementary, middle school and college the extent of our silica exposure education was a quick "try not to breathe in clay dust".  I wonder if that has changed, because a LOT of people are very worried.  Never met anyone in my industry with silicosis but it is one of the industries with traditionally heavy exposure.  Who knows, just do your best to avoid making or breathing dust and don't get too paranoid, it's not trying to kill you, it just doesn't know any better :lol:

I think the reason why people are now a lot more worried is because of the internet!! 

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13 hours ago, LeeU said:

Which may be what needs to be addressed more than the fear of silicosis. (i.e anxiety becoming an impairment, not just a passing bit of worry.)

 

And thus, you have identified and defined the work you need to do at this point in time!!  Willingness is the key. 

Thanks so much, you are right. I was extremely anxious yesterday but feeling more normal and rational now thanks to you guys.

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