Countertop and Stone Fabrication Workers and Silicosis Risks from Engineered Products
Earlier this fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The article examined 18 cases of silicosis, including two fatalities, which occurred in stone fabrication workers.
Silicosis is caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust and is a progressive, disabling and often fatal lung disease. As shared in the report, silica exposure is also associated with increased risk for lung infection, lung cancer, emphysema, autoimmune diseases and kidney disease. Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite and most other types of rock. It is also used as an abrasive blasting agent.
'The MMWR paper highlights the potential dangers of working with engineered stone products which can contain more than 90% silica,' said Harry Pena, President of Zimmetry Environmental. 'This is significant as other traditional stone countertops, such as granite, typically have about half that much silica and marble has even less. The popularity of engineered stone products has skyrocketed over the past decade and workers that are not being protected and are exposed to silica dust during cutting and other fabrication processes are at risk. Before this MMWR report that examined 18 stone fabrication workers that primarily dealt with engineered stone products and developed silicosis, there had been only one known case of the lung disease with a worker fabricating engineered stone materials in the U.S. Silicosis is preventable through air monitoring and effective workplace exposure controls, including effective local exhaust ventilation and the appropriate respiratory protection.'
Dedicated to protecting workers and helping companies comply with existing crystalline silica exposure standards are the industrial hygiene professionals at Zimmetry Environmental. They offer occupational exposure testing and air monitoring for crystalline silica and a wide range of other respiratory hazards throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. These services not only safeguard the health of employees, they are also necessary to keep companies that work with natural and engineered stone products from costly noncompliance fines and penalties.