Silicosis/Silica

 

Inhalation of silica can lead to silicosis. Silica is found in nature in several forms, including quartz and opal. In fact, 35 crystalline forms have been identified.

The most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings is silica, usually in the form of quartz because the considerable hardness of this mineral resists erosion. However, the composition of sand varies according to local rock sources and conditions.

Variants found in high-pressure impacts are coesite and stishovite which are extremely rare and may be found almost exclusively in the base and ejected of large meteor impact craters such as Meteor Crater.

When rock containing quartz is chipped, hammered, drilled, crushed, loaded, hauled, or dumped, small particles of silica are released into the air and can be inhaled by workers.
Silica sand containing quartz is used in sandblasting equipment to clean surfaces. The outsides of buildings and bridges and the insides of storage tanks and pipes are some of the surfaces that are cleaned by sandblasting.

The silica sand used in sandblasting breaks into fine particles that stay in the air. If these particles are small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs, they are known as respirable crystalline silica. Inhaling these fine silica particles causes more lung damage than inhaling larger particles. This process causes rapid and severe forms of silicosis in sandblasters.

What is Silicosis?

When workers inhale crystalline silica, the lung develops scar tissue around the silica particles. This process results in a lung disease known as silicosis. As more lung tissue is damaged by silica dust, breathing becomes more difficult, chest pain occurs, and death may result. Silicosis patients suffer shortness of breath, fever, and cyanosis. Some patients are diagnosed incorrectly as having pulmonary edema, pneumonia, or other lung diseases.

The three types of silicosis are as follows:

1. Chronic silicosis, which occurs after 10 or more years of exposure to low concentrations of crystalline silica.

2. Accelerated silicosis, which occurs 5 to 10 years after exposure to high concentrations of crystalline silica.

3. Acute silicosis, which occurs a few weeks to 5 years after exposure to very high concentrations of crystalline silica.

HOW MANY WORKERS ARE EXPOSED TO DUSTS CONTAINING CRYSTALLINE SILICA?

More than 2 million U.S. workers are potentially exposed to dusts containing crystalline silica. More than 100,000 of them are in high-risk occupations, including sandblasting. Most sandblasters work in construction and shipbuilding. Workers may be exposed to crystalline silica in many other industries, including surface and underground mining, pottery, drywall hanging, glassmaking, foundry work, quarry work, work with sandblasting materials, agriculture, and automotive repair.

WHAT FIELDS OF OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH PROTECT WORKERS FROM OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS?

Industrial hygiene is the science of recognizing, evaluating, and controlling hazards in the workplace and environment. Industrial hygiene practices protect workers from hazards. Other professionals important for protecting workers' health include occupational health physicians and nurses as well as engineers.

WHAT PRACTICES ARE USED TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM SILICOSIS?

Industrial hygiene practices are used to protect workers from silicosis and other workplace hazards. These practices include the use of substitution, engineering controls, work practices, respiratory protection, and air monitoring. Employers are responsible for implementing these practices when they are needed to provide safe and healthful workplaces.

(back to top)

 

 









Ashkin Law Firm
Roberta Ashkin, Esq.
300 East 42nd St. 14th Fl
New York New York 10017
Telephone: (646) 779 8520
Facsimile: (212) 593 9997
» click here to locate our office