All That Glitters: Is Crystalline Silica Slowly Killing You?
Most commonly found in the earth’s crust as quartz and sand, silica is a major component of industrial materials such as concrete and glass. Respirable crystalline silica (RCS)—tiny dust-like silica particles—has become recognized by medical and occupational safety groups as a notorious carcinogen, or cancer-causing compound.
Unfortunately, nearly two million people in the United States are regularly exposed to respirable crystalline silica through construction and industrial work.
RCS exposure and inhalation, much like exposure to asbestos, can lead to debilitating illnesses, such as:
- Lung cancer. As the silica particles collect in the lungs, they can cause cellular tissue damage which can then lead to the development of tumors.
- Silicosis, emphysema, and respiratory failure. When silica particles enter the lungs, they cause irritation, scarring, and hardening of the lung tissue. This effect ultimately leads to breathing difficulties and respiratory failure as the swelling limits the lungs’ ability to fill with oxygen.
- Kidney and immune system deficiencies. In addition to respiratory ailments, silica can affect other organs by invading the bloodstream. When the particles circulate throughout the body, the immune system will attempt to get rid of them by any means necessary. Unfortunately, by attempting to fight these particles, the immune system can become weakened and susceptible to viral and bacterial invasions. If the particles make it to the kidneys, they can collect and cause cellular damage. They can also weaken the organs as the kidneys attempt to filter the toxic particles from the bloodstream.
While silica dust itself may look harmless enough, the health hazards it can cause when it enters your lungs are devastating and irreversible. Furthermore, victims that suffer inhalation exposure become more vulnerable to other lung diseases, such as tuberculosis.
Your Employer Has an Obligation to Limit Silica Exposure Risks
Due to the excessive dangers to life and health from RCS exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set strict limits and regulations on how employers must handle silica exposure with their employees. This protocol includes:
- Setting a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for how much crystalline silica workers may be exposed to in an eight-hour shift.
- Mandating hazard communication training for workers whose jobs may expose them to crystalline silica.
- Requiring the use of proper respirators and engineering controls to keep exposure to a minimum.
It’s been proven time and again that silica inhalation exposure can be avoided. To prevent long-term risks, employers and employees alike simply need to take proper precautions and be aware of proper dust control techniques, employee training, and safety protocols that pertain to silica exposure.
If you have questions about crystalline silica exposure, workplace prevention methods—or lack of adequate safety measures—contact us today by using our live chat feature. It is a quick, effective way to address your concerns and quickly get the answers you need. For a more personal conversation about your concerns or to schedule a FREE review of your silica injury claim contact our office directly at 713-921-4171 or toll-free at 800-232-3711.
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