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Wilmington 302-427-9500 Bear 302-834-8484 Milford 302-422-6705 Lewes 302-550-0155

Is Silica Dust Dangerous for Workers Who Are Exposed?

silica dust

Workers are falling ill, some even dying, after being subjected to silica dust while making kitchen and bathroom countertops. There is a new fear that thousands of workers in the United States who make countertops from engineered stone are breathing in dangerous amounts of lung damaging silica dust.

What Makes Silica Dangerous?

Silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. It also causes a condition called silicosis, which occurs when silica dust enters an individual’s lungs and causes scar tissue to form. This reduces the lungs ability to take in oxygen. Silicosis can be classified as chronic or classic silicosis, accelerated silicosis, and acute silicosis. These three categories are defined by:

  • Chronic silicosis: Occurs after 10 or more years after exposure, and causes swelling of the lungs as well as trouble breathing.
  • Accelerated silicosis: Symptoms occur faster than in chronic silicosis, this usually appearing within five to 10 years after exposure.
  • Acute silicosis: Develops in less than five years. Lungs become inflamed with fluid and causes severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen.

There is no cure for silicosis. Treatment consists of managing the symptoms, and in severe cases, a lung transplant.

What is Engineered Stone?

Engineered stone is a composite material made of crushed stone that is bound together by an adhesive. It contains around 90 percent silica. Cutting this type of stone releases the dangerous silica dust.

Engineered stone is now a popular choice for countertops because it is less likely to crack or stain. Engineered stone holds no danger to individuals once the countertops are installed in homes or businesses; however, it is highly dangerous for the employees responsible for cutting the stone for clients.

Who is at Risk of Developing a Silica-Related illness?

Silica is dangerous to employees in high risk jobs, such as:

  • Construction work
  • Tunnel work
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Ceramics work
  • Different forms of mining, including coal and hard rock mining
  • Stone cutting
  • Abrasive drilling

What Are the Responsibilities of Your Employer?

If you work in a job that requires you to be around silica dust, your employer is required by law to protect you. Here are a few things employers can do to protect employees from developing an occupational illness caused by silica dust:

  • Replace crystalline silica materials with safe substitutes.
  • Use available work practices to control dust exposure.
  • Be sure that employees wear all necessary protective equipment.
  • Hold and participate in training, exposure monitoring, health screening, and surveillance programs to monitor any adverse health effects that may be caused by silica dust.
  • Make sure that employees do not eat, drink, smoke, or apply cosmetics in areas where there is silica dust present.

How Can Exposure be Lessened?

Controlling the silica dust can lower employees’ risk of developing lung disease. There are a variety of proven methods, including cutting the stone while it is still wet, and using a vacuum or infiltration system that removes the silica dust from the air. Even with precautions, workers can still develop a work-related illness. If you are a worker that has become ill due to being exposed to silica dust at work, an experienced lawyer will determine if you are eligible for Workers’ Compensation.

Milford Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Represent Clients with Work-Related Illnesses or Injuries

If you have sustained a work-related injury or illness, contact one of our Milford Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow immediately. Our experienced lawyers will fight hard for your rights. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 302-422-6705. Located in Bear, Wilmington, and Milford, Delaware, we proudly serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Milford, Hillsborough, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.

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