Silicosis in a Himalayan village population: role of environmental dust.
The Himalayan villages of Chuchot Shamma and Stok were surveyed because silicosis had been suspected from the radiographs of some of the inhabitants. The villages are agricultural, and Chuchot is exposed to frequent dust storms. Chest radiographs of villagers aged 50-62 were assessed blind by two independent observers using ILO criteria. In Chuchot five of seven men and all of the nine women examined showed varying grades of silicosis, compared with three of 13 men and seven of 11 women in Stok, which lies 300 metres higher and is exposed to fewer dust storms. The difference in prevalence of silicosis between the two villages was significant, as was the differences between men and women. Three patients from the village adjoining Chuchot were later found to have radiological evidence of progressive massive fibrosis. A necropsy on a man in a neighbouring village in the Indus valley showed classical silicosis in a hilar lymph node. Chemical analysis of the inorganic dust in the lung showed that 54.4% was elemental silicon [corrected]. This was similar to the silicon [corrected] content of dust samples collected from houses in Chuchot, which included particles of respirable size. X-ray microanalysis showed that quartz formed 16-21% of the inorganic lung dust. This study suggests that silicosis is common among the older inhabitants of these Himalayan villages. The dust exposure is clearly environmental and not industrial. Further studies are needed to define the extent and severity of silicosis in this community and to examine possible preventive measures.