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Crystalline silica

Worker cutting concrete producing crystalline silica

Crystalline silica is a mineral found in large quantities in the Earth's crust. It is used as an industrial material. It can be found in several forms, the most common, quartz. The latter is a component of sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, blocks and mortar. Many of these materials are used daily in many varieties of industrial environments including construction, mining, manufacturing, marine industry and agriculture.

Exposure to crystalline silica at the occupational level occurs frequently. It occurs during relative operations and common to construction work. For example, when cutting, sawing or drilling, when crushing concrete, brick, blocks, rock and glass products. Workers handling these products with sand (such as glass) are likely to inhale small (respirable) particles of crystalline silica in the air during melting and sanding.

Sandblasting producing crystalline silica

These exposures can cause serious lung diseases such as silicosis. This illness must be declared by the employer if it occurs in one of its employees. Lung cancer can also be a consequence of exposure to silica. These diseases are associated with exposures to high levels of silica. They are related to sandblasting, sand smelting and casting operations. They are also associated with mines, tunnels, cement cutting and demolition, masonry work and granite cutting. The occurrence of crystalline silica-related diseases in the workplace is caused by inhalation from exposure to quartz powders and dusts in the area where the worker is breathing.

Preventative measures are aimed at minimizing worker exposure to crystalline silica by:

  • Quantification of contaminants by sampling and analysis;
  • Information and training offered to workers by OSH;
  • Control of the product and dust management by suction;
  • Optimized and efficient work methodology;
  • Calibration of indoor ventilation;
  • Wear respiratory protective equipment.