While uptake of crystalline silicon dioxide (SiO2) causes severe inflammations in the lung tissues, high doses of amorphous SiO2 trigger short-time inflammation without any further effects after healing.


Inhalation of crystalline silicon dioxide causes silicosis which is also referred to as quartz pneumoconiosis or grinder’s disease. Silicosis is a pathological alteration of the lung caused by long-time inhalation of quartz dust particles. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) respirable quartz dust is considered carcinogenic [1]. Suitable protective equipment must be worn therefore when working with quartz dust. Download-Link for Merck Material Safety Data Sheet "Quartz", date 25.08.2006. (PDF-Document, 23 KB).


In vivo studies of mice that were injected with silicon dioxide have shown that 70 nm of amorphous SiO2 particles put a strain on the liver while leaving the lung unaffected.

In another study dedicated to a direct comparison between crystalline and amorphous silicon dioxides, rats were made to inhale both crystalline and amorphous SiO2 over a three-month period to analyze inflammatory reactions in the lung. While the crystalline type was observed to cause severe inflammation which did not heal, high doses of the amorphous type triggered short-time inflammation without any other effects after healing [2].


Literature arrow down

  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (1997). IARC Monograph on the Evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans, No.68: Silica.
  2. Johnston, CJ et al. (2000), Toxicol Sci, 56(2): 405-413.


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