Posted: 23 Mar '17

What is Silica Dust and Why is it Dangerous?

What is Silica Dust and Why is it Dangerous?

Over a million workers in North America are occupationally exposed to harmful silica dust, of which, around 60,000 will develop incurable lung diseases. One of the largest factors contributing to this is a lack of awareness, leading to insufficient silica dust control systems. This article will explain what silica is and how it can lead to a critically hazardous workplace when the proper preventative measures are not taken.

What is silica?

Silica is one of the most common naturally occurring compounds on the planet, with sand and quartz being two common examples of it in crystalline form. Many of the materials used on construction sites contain the mineral, including brick, tile, cement, drywall, grout, concrete, and mortar. While these materials are not usually harmful, workplace operations which disturb the silica within these materials can cause tiny, invisible silica particles to become airborne in the form of dust. Inhaling this airborne silica dust, even in small amounts, can be very harmful to your health.

How does silica become airborne?

Workplace activities will lead to silica dust particles in the air, including cutting, sawing, drilling, sanding, dry sweeping, cleaning, or crushing materials that contain the silica compound. Everyday operations in certain industries, such as pottery and glass making, which use heavy quantities of sand, are especially at risk of producing airborne silica. Put simply, any operation which creates dust can create airborne silica.

What can inhaling silica lead to?

When silica dust is inhaled, it destroys healthy lung tissue and replaces it with scar tissue. This causes a reduction in the lung's ability to take in oxygen. This can lead to silicosis, an incurable disease which's symptoms can range from shortness of breath to respiratory failure and death. Silica also reduces the lungs' other functions, hindering their ability to fight lung infection and causing high rates of diseases such as tuberculosis in those that have experienced silica exposure. Additionally, crystalline silica has been classified as a carcinogen and linked to lung cancer.

It is important to ensure your workplace uses the most effective silica dust control systems to achieve the best possible air quality for you and your colleagues. Contact Innovative Ventilation Systems today and we will work with you to ensure your workplace is equipped to be a safe and pleasant place to work.