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Rare pneumoconioses

Last updated: September 23, 2020

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Pneumoconioses are a group of restrictive interstitial lung diseases caused by the inhalation of certain dusts, which are often associated with mining and agriculture. Inhalation of inorganic dust – especially chronic, occupational exposure – causes an inflammatory reaction in the lung parenchyma, which may lead to symptoms such as cough and breathlessness. Typically, disease manifestation occurs after many years of exposure. An occupational history of patients with findings indicative of interstitial disease suffice to diagnose the condition. Chest x-ray serves as an adjunct diagnostic tool and allows the scarring associated with the disease to be visualized. There is no effective targeted therapy for pneumoconioses; management involves avoidance of triggers, supplemental oxygen, and supportive therapy. Prevention through screening programs, use of masks and adequate ventilation, and/or change of jobs can help lower the impact of the condition.

This card only covers rare forms of pneumoconiosis. For asbestosis and silicosis, see the respective cards.

Types of rare pneumoconioses

Type Cause Population at risk Characteristic features Chest x-ray
Aluminosis [2]
  • Aluminum dust
  • Welders (e.g., automobile industry)
  • Nodular or diffuse infiltrates (predominantly affects the upper lung fields)
  • Small cystic radiolucencies (“honeycombing”) [3]
Anthracosis [4][5]
  • Carbon dust and sooty air
  • City dwellers
  • Coal miners
  • More mild than other types of pneumoconiosis, usually asymptomatic
  • Pulmonary fibrosis rarely occurs.
  • Upper lobes of the lungs are primarily affected.
  • Heterogenous pulmonary infiltrates, with/without mass lesion
Coal workers' pneumoconiosis [4][5]
  • Fine nodular opacifications (< 1 cm) in upper lung zone
  • Beryllium
  • Workers in manufacturing industries where alloys are frequently used (often high-tech)
    • Aerospace engineering
    • Nuclear and electronics plants
    • Ceramics industries
    • Dental material production
    • Dye manufacturing
Pulmonary siderosis [8][9]
  • Welders, iron miners, foundry workers
  • Usually asymptomatic; occasionally, presents with features similar to COPD
  • Pulmonary fibrosis rarely occurs.
  • Small, round, patchy shadows on x-ray

Although coal is mined from under the earth, the upper lobes of the lungs are primarily affected.


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