What is Crystalline Silica?
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), crystalline silica is an abundant natural mineral found in stone, soil and sand. It is also found in construction materials such as concrete, brick and mortar. Quartz dust is respirable crystalline silica, which means it can be inhaled while breathing.
What’s the Problem?
Silica exposure is a serious threat to nearly 2 million workers in the U.S., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Workers who cut slabs of artificial stone or silica countertops face the greatest risk of health effects from silica exposure. OSHA has classified crystalline silica as a known human lung carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).
What is Silicosis?
Silicosis is a severe lung disease that affects workers exposed to silica dust in occupations such as mining, glass manufacturing and foundry work, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). Exposure to silica particles causes scarring in the lungs, which can harm a person’s ability to breathe.
Types of Silicosis
There are 3 types of silicosis:
- Acute Silicosis – Causes cough, weight loss, and fatigue within a few weeks or years of exposure to inhaled silica.
- Chronic Silicosis – Affects upper lung areas, causing extensive scarring. Symptoms appear after 10-30 years of silica exposure.
- Accelerated Silicosis – Occurs within 10 years of high-level exposure to silica.
Silicosis in Engineered Stone Fabrication Workers: CDC Report
At least 18 cases of silicosis, including 2 deaths, have been reported among stone fabrication workers in 4 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency also found several cases of autoimmune disease and latent tuberculosis infection in workers of the same trade. CDC warned that “given the serious health hazard and significant number of workers at risk, additional efforts are needed to reduce exposures and improve disease surveillance.”
- Progressive shortness of breath
- Abnormal chest X-rays
- Slow-developing cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Night sweats
- Leg swelling
- Bluish discoloration of the lips (cyanosis)
Source: American Lung Association
Silicosis Crisis – Workers Dying Making Kitchen Countertops: ABC News Video
Which Occupations are at Risk of Silicosis?
Occupations that are known to expose workers to inhaled crystalline silica include:
- Coal mining
- Hard rock mining
- Construction work
- Tunnel work
- Sand blasting
- Glass manufacturing
- Ceramics work
- Steel industry work
- Stone cutting
Source: CHEST Foundation
Is There a Cure?
There is no cure for silicosis; however, it can be prevented. Treatment for silicosis focuses on the management of symptoms.
Once silicosis has developed, the patient’s doctor will assess the degree of lung damage with tests. Some patients may require urgent treatment with oxygen and support for breathing. Others may need prescription medications such as inhaled steroids or bronchodilators to decrease sputum production and relax the air tubes.
OSHA Silica Dust Regulations
OSHA has established a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) on the maximum amount of crystalline silica to which workers may be exposed during an 8-hour work shift (29 CFR 1926.55, 1910.1000). The agency also requires hazard communication training for workers exposed to crystalline silica, and requires a respirator program until engineering controls are implemented.
How to Protect Against Crystalline Silica Exposure
- Replace crystalline silica materials with safer substitutes, whenever possible.
- Provide engineering or administrative controls, where feasible, such as local exhaust ventilation, and blasting cabinets.
- Use all available work practices to control dust exposures.
- Wear only a N95 NIOSH certified respirator, if respirator protection is required.
- Wear only a Type CE abrasive-blast supplied-air respirator for abrasive blasting.
- Wear disposable or washable work clothes.
- Vacuum the dust from your clothes or change into clean clothing before leaving the work site.
- Participate in training, exposure monitoring, and health screening and surveillance programs to monitor any adverse health effects caused by crystalline silica exposures.
- Be aware of the operations and job tasks creating crystalline silica exposures in your workplace environment and know how to protect yourself.
Is There a Class Action?
At this time, the law offices of Schmidt & Clark, LLP, are not pursuing a class action claim on behalf of individuals who have been diagnosed with silicosis. However, this doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’ve been harmed. Our lawyers are now accepting potential individual claims for injured parties. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.
Do I Have a Silicosis Lawsuit?
The Product Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in silicosis lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with silicosis, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.