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Turning Men Into Stone: A Social and Medical History of Silicosis in Western Australia, 1890-1970

Fitzgerald, Criena


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Silicosis is a type of pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a common mineral found in sand, quartz and many other types of rock. Silicosis mainly affects workers exposed to silica dust in jobs such as construction and mining.
In 1960, WA physician Dr Bob Elphick remarked to his colleagues that the mining industry was turning men into stone. This evocative image aptly described the end-stage pathophysiological changes that occurred in the lungs of the state’s goldminers after exposure to silica dust.

Until 1926 in WA, when X-ray technology became readily available and financially viable, diagnosis of dust disease in miners was fraught, flawed and at best an educated medical guess. Medical men and miners believed that their ill health was caused by a combination of infection from tuberculosis and exposure to dust, but it was tuberculosis rather than silicosis that became the focus of preventative and…

vii, 244 pages : illustrations (some colour), portraits, facsimiles ; 24 cm  Includes bibliographical references, endnotes (pages 196-229) and index.  #060822 First Edition. Signed by Author. (inscription)

Silicosis — Western Australia.  |  Lungs — Dust diseases — Western Australia.  |  Miners’ phthisis — Western Australia.  |  Miners — Western Australia.  |  Occupational diseases — Western Australia.  |  Australian  |  Australian

Additional Information

Author Fitzgerald, Criena
Number of pagesvii, 244 pages : illustrations (some colour), portraits, facsimiles ; 24 cm
PublisherHesperian Press, The Author, Perth WA
Year Published2016
Binding Type


Book Condition


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