Misconceptions regarding the pathogenicity of silicas and silicates

David S. Feigin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Several inhaled substances, from occupational or other environmental exposure, produce significant pulmonary disease and abnormalities demonstrated by pulmonary imaging. Areas of controversy and misconception relate principally to the extent and nature of both the clinical disease and the imaging abnormalities specific to each substance. The size and shape of the inhaled particles is an important determinant of the nature and severity of the disease produced, with fibrous shapes usually being the most pathogenetic. Fibrogenicity is another important pathogenetic characteristic of talc and kaolin, as well as asbestos. Talc produces four distinct forms of pulmonary disease, depending not only on the other substances with which it is inhaled, but also whether it is inhaled or injected intravenously. When inhaled alone, talc does not appear to produce significant pulmonary fibrosis or malignancy. Kaolin, mica, fuller's earth, zeolite, and fiberglass all vary in disease production according to their shape and fibrogenicity. Silica, diatomaceous earth, and other forms of silica are all highly fibrogenic and thus produce clinically obvious disease with sufficient inhalation. The largest particles usually produce nodular patterns in the upper pulmonary fields, as is typical of silicosis. The fibrous particles are more likely to manifest themselves as interstitial patterns in the lower pulmonary fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-80
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Thoracic Imaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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