Health and Fitness

Volcanic Ash Can Cause Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a Lung Disease and Also the Longest Word in the Dictionary

Its other name is much shorter and simpler: silicosis.

The longest word in the English dictionary is a medical condition meant to describe a lung disease caused by inhaling fine ash and sand dust. The 45-letter and 19-syllable word is, take a deep breath, Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

Its other name is much shorter and simpler: silicosis.

Silicosis is a lung disease and type of pneumoconiosis caused by inhaling an excessive amount of crystalline silica dust or the microscopic particles of volcanic dust.  

The dangers of inhaling an excessive amount of volcanic ash can’t be emphasized enough. The particles of volcanic ash have been compared to microscopic shards of glass, and glass has no business being in your lungs.

Silicosis is a long-term effect of volcanic ash, resulting in lung impairment and scarring of the lungs. It’s a chronic condition with no known cure, but there are a number of ways to manage it through cough suppressants, antibiotics, and therapy.


Unless you live near Taal Volcano and you happen to have asthma, bronchitis, or pre-existing breathing issues, it’s unlikely that you’ll develop silicosis. More common side effects from volcanic ash are runny noses, sore throats, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and even bronchitis.

But it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so put that N95 mask to good use.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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