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Understanding silica dust: Washington state issues hazard alert

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Tumwater, WA — The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has published a hazard alert on the risks of worker exposure to silica dust.

Crystalline silica is a known carcinogen found in sand, stone and artificial stone. OSHA estimates that, each year, 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust, which can cause silicosis, an incurable disease that involves scarring of the lungs. Silica dust exposure also has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and kidney disease, along with tuberculosis and other lung infections.

Workers at risk include anyone who:

  • Saws, grinds, sands, finishes or installs natural or engineered stone materials.
  • Dry sweeps dusty floors.
  • Uses compressed air to clean dusty equipment, clothing and other surfaces.

An employee in the state recently was diagnosed with silicosis after six years of working with stone countertops, according to the alert, which includes tips on how to keep workers safe and provides a list of risk factors.

 

The agency also released a SHARP Stats sheet from its Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention Program showing that stone fabrication workers often experience silica exposure well above the permissible limit (50 micrograms per cubic meter of air). That conclusion was drawn from more than 100 air samples taken from 29 jobsites between 2007 and 2018.

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