The Illusion of Medical Certainty: Silicosis and the Politics of Industrial Disability, 1930–1960

No firm differentiation existed between social and medical standards on silicosis, the salient industrial health problem of the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, professional groups, government and labor officials, and insurance executives negotiated about the causes and consequences of the disabling condition. Debates in the 1930s formed the basis for amending state and federal compensation systems for work-related disease. If attention to silicosis declined after World War II, disputes continued about diagnosis and functional criteria for identifying pulmonary and occupationally based impairments, and about appropriate policies for treating and compensating people disabled through the course of their work.

Author(s): Gerald Markowitz; David Rosner

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Volume 67, Issue S2 (pages 228–253)
Published in 1989