Ceramics manufacturing contributes to ambient silica air pollution and burden of lung disease

Chung Min Liao*, Bo Chun Wu, Yi Hsien Cheng, Shu Han You, Yi Jun Lin, Nan Hung Hsieh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Inhalation of silica (SiO2) in occupational exposures can cause pulmonary fibrosis (silicosis), lung function deficits, pulmonary inflammation, and lung cancer. Current risk assessment models, however, cannot fully explain the magnitude of silica-induced pulmonary disease risk. The purpose of this study was to assess human health risk exposed to airborne silica dust in Taiwan ceramics manufacturing. We conducted measurements to characterize workplace-specific airborne silica dust in tile and commodity ceramic factories and used physiologically based alveolar exposure model to estimate exposure dose. We constructed dose–response models for describing relationships between exposure dose and inflammatory responses, by which health risks among workers can be assessed. We found that silica contents were 0.22–33.04 % with mean concentration ranges of 0.11–5.48 and 0.46–1763.30 μg m−3, respectively, in commodity and tile ceramic factories. We showed that granulation workers in tile ceramic factory had the highest total SiO2 lung burden (∼1000 mg) with cumulative SiO2 lung burden of ∼4 × 104 mg-year. The threshold estimates with an effect on human lung inflammation and fibrosis are 407.31 ± 277.10 (mean ± sd) and 505.91 ± 231.69 mg, respectively. For granulation workers, long-term exposure to airborne silica dust for 30–45 years was likely to pose severe adverse health risks of inflammation and fibrosis. We provide integrated assessment algorithms required to implement the analyses and maintain resulting concentration of silica dust at safety threshold level in the hope that they will stimulate further analyses and interpretation. We suggest that decision-makers take action to implement platforms for effective risk management to prevent the related long-term occupational disease in ceramics manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15067-15079
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number19
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Air pollution
  • Ceramics manufacturing
  • Lung
  • Risk assessment
  • Silica
  • Silicosis


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