John Cherrie

Professor, Institute of Occupational Medicine

John Cherrie is Emeritus Professor of Human Health at Heriot Watt University and a Principal Scientist at the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) in Edinburgh, UK. He has been an occupational hygienist since 1979, working on research, consultancy and teaching. John is a member of the British Workplace Health Expert Committee and the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council. In 2020, John had planned to retire but the pandemic put paid to that and he is now working on a new research project to evaluate the effectiveness of novel workplace interventions to protect healthcare workers from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.


The link between work and silicosis has been known for hundreds of years and knowledge that silica can cause lung cancer emerged during the last twenty or thirty years. Each year around the world, about 50,000 people die from lung cancer as a consequence of silica exposure, with a further 10,000 deaths from silicosis. Globally the death toll has risen over the last 40-years as the number of workers exposed has increased, although in high income countries silica-related deaths have been slowly decreasing. Silicosis and lung cancer from workplace crystalline silica exposure can be prevented. However, we have been slow to learn how to effectively manage the risks and quick to forget the lessons of history. During the last forty years we have seen cases of accelerated silicosis amongst stone masons in Scotland, where exposures were 100s of times the permitted levels, and cases of silicosis in people sandblasting jeans or cutting granite tabletops. We really need to change our attitude to airborne dust at work to make it unacceptable. Only by completely eliminating the problem can we prevent these diseases.

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Monday 30th Nov Day 1

What should we do to prevent disease from crystalline silica exposure?

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