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OSHA to issue proposed rule on silica exposure

Combustible dust

Washington – OSHA has announced it will issue a proposed rule to revise the agency’s standards on occupational exposure to crystalline silica.

The proposed rule includes two standards – one for general industry and maritime, and one for construction. It would lower the current permissible exposure limit by half, to 50 micrograms of respirable silica per cubic meter of air, a recommendation NIOSH made in 1974.

“Exposure to silica dust can be extremely hazardous, and limiting that exposure is essential,” OSHA administrator David Michaels said during an Aug. 23 press conference announcing the rulemaking.

Silica exposure has been linked to silicosis – a deadly lung disease – and lung cancer. If the proposed rule becomes fully implemented, it could save an estimated 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new silicosis cases every year, according to Michaels, who added the current standards are “dangerously out of date” and the new proposal is “long overdue.”