What is crystalline silica?
Crystalline silica is found in stone, soil, and sand and is a known carcinogen. It is also found in concrete, brick, mortar, and other construction materials. It comes in several forms, with quartz being the most common. Quartz dust is respirable crystalline silica, which means it can be taken in by breathing.
How are people exposed to crystalline silica?
Exposure to tiny particles of airborne silica, primarily quartz dust, occurs mainly in industrial and occupational settings. Occupational exposure to crystalline silica dust occurs in many industries including: quarrying, mining, mineral processing (e.g. drying, grinding, bagging and handling) slate working, stone crushing and dressing, foundry work, brick and tile making, some refractory processes, construction and demolition work, including work with stone, concrete, brick and some insulation boards, tunneling, building restoration, pottery and ceramic industries.
Basically where concrete, stone or sand based materials are used, there is a potential for exposure to crystalline silica dust.For example, workers who use handheld masonry saws to cut materials such as concrete and brick may be exposed to airborne silica.
Inhalation of fine dust containing crystalline silica can cause lung damage (silicosis), which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. Silicosis is irreversible and treatment options are limited.