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The Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster illustrates the severity of silicosis and the importance of safeguards in the workplace. Beginning in 1927, the construction of a three-mile-long tunnel turned out to be one of America’s worst industrial disasters. The mountain rock that workers were drilling near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia contained extremely high levels of silica. Wet drilling techniques were not used to keep dust levels down and the 3,000 underground workers were not given masks or respirators. These factors all contributed to workers contracting silicosis at alarming rates. Over half of the men who worked underground at Hawk’s Nest for at least two months died within five years of the tunnel’s completion. The average length of work at Hawk’s Nest was between 15 and 16 weeks. The total death toll is thought to be well over 1,000 workers. Most of the workers were migrants and an accurate death toll will never be known because many of the sickened workers returned home to die.