The European Research Council has awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to Paul-André Rosental for his research project « SILICOSIS – From Silicosis to Chronic Respiratory diseases: An approach via Epidemiological History (in France, Europe, Southern Africa, from the 1900s until today) ».
ERC Advanced Grants allow exceptional established research leaders of any nationality and any age to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects that open new directions in their respective research fields or other domains.
This project deals with silicosis, a pathology caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica dust and the deadly occupational disease in history. Contrary to what some may think, it does not belong to a remote past as it struck massively in the 20th century and is still present in industrial societies, and is growing in emerging countries.
The SILICOSIS project seeks to re-evaluate the epidemiological importance of silicosis by combining history, social science and public health. Indeed, its medical definition was literally, and minimally, bargained in the 1930s by employers and unions and States under the aegis of International Labour Organization. This truncated basis has continued to have its effects and led to a massive underreporting of the cases of silicosis, many of which were declared as tuberculosis. In this view, SILICOSIS will aim, first, at a rereading of the 20th century epidemiology of silicosis and tuberculosis from a transnational perspective by comparing European and Southern African mining fields, two regions particularly hit. It will also aim at analysing the real magnitude of silicosis today, mainly in the non mining sector, by questioning contemporary medical classifications.
By combining history and social science with scientific knowledge drawn from pneumology, SILICOSIS will show to what extent a series of other chronic inflammatory diseases (sarcoidosis, rheumatoid arthritis and some others) is likely to be caused, at least in part, by the inhalation of silica dust. Last but not least, SILICOSIS hopes to contribute to a better prevention and awareness of dangers of inhalation of silica dust outside the mining sector, as for instance in the building industry or founderies.
In order to fulfil these objectives, SILICOSIS will propose an innovative approach through the combined methods of history, medicine and quantitative social science on the basis of the most advanced techniques of lung tissues analysis, an approach that will be repeatable on other occupational and environmental diseases.
Paul-André Rosental is an historian, Professor at Sciences Po, researcher at the Centre d’études européennes and Centre d’histoire and associate researcher at INED. He runs the Esopp team which has a joint Sciences Po & EHESS research seminar.
Together with Paul-André Rosental, the SILICOSIS research team is composed of a sociologist, a pneumologist, a post-doctoral researcher and a scientific assistant.