Basic facts about Silica
Silica, another name for the natural compound silicon dioxide (SiO2), comprises nearly 60% of the earth’s crust. Although it most frequently appears in soil, sand and stone, silica is a dexterous substance and utilized extensively throughout the world. In fact, because of its , silica is considered an essential building block for life as we know it today.
From health supplements and cellphones to the bricks of our homes, silica is a key ingredient in a vast number of modern products and basic essentials.
Most commonly, the type of silica called crystalline silica is found in ordinary products such as glass, pottery, bricks, mortar and artificial stone. Without silica, houses, roads and transportation wouldn’t exist as we know them.
Commercially, silica is in many health supplements used largely for skin health and joint and bone care. It may also be used in blood pressure and high cholesterol medication.
Additionally, the construction of technological equipment such as computers and phones contain crystalline silica. On a broad scale, silica is essential in the infrastructure of the internet, renewable energy and telecommunications.
While silica’s benefits to society are numerous, it can also cause illness. When silica becomes respirable, it becomes dangerous. This occurs primarily on worksites involving cutting, sawing, drilling, or crushing silica. Nearly 2.3 million American workers are exposed to dangerous crystalline silica dust every day.
Breathing in crystalline silica dust is toxic and leads to severe health implications. Some of the issues/illness from crystalline silica dust include:
· Bronchitis - This involves the inflammation of the bronchial tubes which leads to chest congestion, wheezing and coughed-up mucus.
o This is a disease that affects skin, blood cells, heart, lungs and joints. Lupus has no cure, but symptoms can be managed.
The most common illness from silica dust is. When you inhale small crystalline silica dust, it embeds itself in the lungs, which, after a time, inflame and scar. There are several forms of silicosis.
While typically caused by smoking, lung cancer is also a danger of silica dust exposure. Symptoms of lung cancer include a consistent cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, bone pain, headache and loss in weight.
To protect yourself from respirable silicosis and other ailments, the best practice is to decrease exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Worksites grinding, crushing or drilling rock, mortar or concrete should create a preventative action plan against respirable crystalline silica exposure. NIOSH recommends the following ideas:
· Educate yourself and others on the dangers of breathing crystalline silica dust. Awareness is key.
· On worksites, use water spray systems and appropriate ventilation in confined areas.
· Wear a respirator on the worksite when working around products/objects containing crystalline silica. Even if you cannot see the dust, you may still be at risk.
· Wash hands before and after working in dust-covered areas.
· Keep your clothes and body clean after leaving dusty workplace.
Most importantly, NIOSH recommends all employee take advantage ofand . Health screenings alleviate risk and track longstanding health effects to exposures on the job to keep workers safe and protected.
Employers should be aware of OSHA’s two respirable crystalline silica standards to protect workers: one for construction and the other for general industry and maritime.
National Safety Conference 2019
If you are attending the , make sure to attend the “Challenges Implementing the New OSHA Respirable Silica Standard” presentation, given by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kent Peterson. Examinetics has already conducted more than 2,000 silica exams, so you can gain insights from our extensive experience. Also, stop by our booth for more information about silica and our medical services to keep your workforce healthy and safe.
· Manaktaka American Indian Council
This is business-to-business information intended for EHS (environmental health and safety) professionals and not intended for the final consumer. Companies should check the local regulatory status of any claim according to their individual needs, requirements and intended use.