• Clinical science

Rare pneumoconioses


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
  • Aluminum dust
  • Welders (e.g., automobile industry)
  • Nodular or diffuse infiltrates (predominantly affects the upper lung fields)
  • Small cystic radiolucencies (“honeycombing”)
  • Carbon dust and sooty air
  • City dwellers
  • Coal miners
  • Anthracosis: heterogenous pulmonary infiltrates, with/without mass lesion
  • Coal workers' pneumoconiosis: fine nodular opacifications (< 1 cm) in upper lung zone
  • Workers in high-tech fields , where alloys are often utilized
  • Noncaseating granulomatous disease affecting the lungs and skin
  • Chronic beryllium disease: Progressive dyspnea may occur within a few days of high-grade exposure.
Pulmonary siderosis
  • 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


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last updated 08/18/2020
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