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Silicosis - A World History

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’This book gave a fascinating insight to diseases that are still prevalent today.’

Title: Silicosis - A World History

Author: Paul Andre Rosental

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Reviewer: Jane Brown, Quality Governance Manager Specialised Clinical Services Division Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust

What was it like?

This was interesting for me- personally as I had worked in West Yorkshire in the middle nineties in chest and upper GI surgery. West Yorkshire provided employment in heavy industry and the mills as well as other industries. Naively I thought a lot of diseases had gone with the demise of industry and the coal mines – but I was not thinking globally.

This book addresses the subject of silica-caused lung disease from varied angles, and frightening this could be a global health issue in todays modern world.

The problem is that diseases I was witness to, took years to become apparent – such as asbestosis and mesothelioma – when patients could be treated with complex surgery or to keep the symptoms ay bay.

The author gives a good account of the history. It was known certain industries were an occupational hazard as workers were subjected breathing in dust, fumes and other hazards. Occupational health was poor, even though there were unions and welfare set ups as lot of diseases were not and some still not recognised.

The book is well written and contributed by experts.

Although the reader may think this could be a heavy read, the book is set out well and it was easy to read. The author enables the reader to understand. It is referenced well. Some books of this genre can be difficult to read, as politics, legal and medical terminology can feel beyond the reader- this was not the case.

What were the highlights?

Personally, I thought silicosis was now confined to the history books, thinking of areas such as Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and the defeat of the coal miners unions, which lead to the closure of a lot of Britain’s mines. Silica – readers are informed is not just due to the coal mines but a variety of industries, which still occur today, such as glass making, foundry works and even pencil production in India.

The author sets out to discuss that learning from history maybe the key to diagnosing and treating workers worldwide early.

Strengths & weaknesses:

There were no weaknesses. This book gave a fascinating insight to diseases that are still prevalent today.

Who should read it?

This should be on the reading list for medical and nursing students - it gives a great insight to this disease, industrial and social history and that it is not confined to history. It is still here today.



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