Respirable Silica

Respirable Crystalline Silica

Respirable Crystalline Silica

Learning about respirable crystalline silica is an important part of increasing your understanding of silicosis, a lung disease that can affect professionals. Additionally, it is important to a number of industries. A good first step to controlling exposure to this disease is understanding how respirable crystalline silica is produced. In fact, it is also a key to knowing how workers are exposed.

What Is Respirable Crystalline Silica?

Crystalline silica is a mineral that is common in a number of materials. These materials include:

  • Rock
  • Sand
  • Stone
  • Brick
  • Granite
  • Concrete
  • Sandstone
  • Cement Mortar
  • Mineral Deposits
  • Blasting Abrasives

Crystalline silica occurs naturally in many types of rock and stone materials. As a result, this substance is present in the above materials. Although different minerals contain various forms of crystalline silica in differing amounts, each can pose a threat to persons exposed. So why isn’t everyone sick from it if it is so ubiquitous? Because not all crystalline silica is the same. There is one form that can be especially harmful.

Professionals work with materials that contain crystalline silica. Breathable dust particles are referred to as “respirable” particles. Various types of tasks can produce respirable silica including:

  • Cutting
  • Drilling
  • Crushing
  • Grinding

Risks of Silica Dust

The risks associated with respirable crystalline silica exposure include a variety of health problems. These health risks increase when workers are not protected from exposure to respirable crystalline silica. These health problems include:

  • COPD
  • Cancer
  • Silicosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Chronic Bronchitis
  • Autoimmune Diseases

The key then is to reduce or even eliminate exposure to dust containing silica crystals in the work environment. As a result, OSHA has developed standards for maintaining a healthy work environment. These standards involve reducing the amount of silica containing dust that is present in the work environment.

Reducing Crystalline Silica Dust

Reducing the amount of crystalline silica dust in the work environment can be accomplished by feeding water to the point of contact between the power tools and air filtration systems in the work environment.

In a wet shop environment having a water treatment plant to filter the slurry produced increases efficiency. It also helps to process and dispose of silica properly.  After water evaporates from the filtered sludge (or slurry), the particles have the potental to become airborne once again. Hence, utilizing a water filtering system that filters and contains slurry is a wise method of managing respirable crystalline silica.

Professionals use OSHA standards as a guide to healthier work environments in many industries affected by silica dust. Furthermore, following those standards means protecting employees for potential health risks.

Protecting Workers From Respirable Crystalline Silica