What is Silica Dust?
Crystalline silica is abundant throughout nature. Silica is a component of sand, granite and soil, and can be found everywhere across the planet. Silica is a basic building block of an enormous number of products like building materials, glass, ceramics, paint, rubber and more.
Silica dust specifically can be the result of breaking apart construction elements such as brick, cement, concrete, drywall, mortar and many other materials. When these materials get broken down in some form they can release a fine particulate of respirable silica dust that can be quite harmful.
There are particular industries more susceptible to exposure. Workers who perform foundry work, abrasive blasting, quarry work, stone cutting and rock drilling, for example, are more at risk.
Exposure to respirable silica dust can lead to some pretty serious and even potentially fatal medical problems. These can include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, tuberculosis, and silicosis, Furthermore, exposure has been linked to some cancers and renal disease.
Silica Dust Exposure Concerns
While there can be a risk of casual exposure, there is little data on non-occupational hazards. You are more at risk if you live near one of the industries that can produce silica dust such as quarries and foundries.
Those most at risk for exposure are laborers within fields that work with materials comprised of crystalline silica. But there are some common-sense precautions that can be taken to avoid potential exposure to silica dust and other contaminants.
1). Use protective gear and avoid working in dusty areas as much as possible,
2). Don’t eat, drink or smoke where dust is produced.
3). Change into disposable or washable work clothes at your worksite.
4). Be aware of dust that might find its way into your car or home.
Employers in these industries have become more aware of the dangers of exposure, and are doing things to help their employees take necessary precautions. These include providing administrative and engineering controls like local exhaust ventilation, working to replace crystalline silica materials with safer substitutes, and making use of protective equipment or various protective measures among other things.
Protection for Silica Dust Exposure
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends procedures such as limiting exposure to silica dust and other contaminants with the use of water sprays, certified and properly fitted respirators, disposable and washable clothing and showering before leaving a work site.
If you work in one of these industries and want to get more information or help, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers advice to small and medium sized businesses, freely and confidentially, through an on-site consultation program. Visit OSHA’s website for more information.
Further, some states are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of their residents in limiting potential for exposure to silica dust. For example, both California and New Jersey have regulations in place to keep their citizens safe.
Air quality is important to everyone. To see if the air you’re breathing every day contains any toxic organic chemicals, order one of our home air quality testing kits today.