Health Risks associated with Stone Dust Exposure
Stone dust is a by-product of crushed rocks; as a multipurpose building material it provides compact results. Despite its many benefits to the construction industry, it comes with a number of health risks.
Respirable crystalline silica is a chemical compound present in stone dust, soil, granite and many other minerals. It has been classified as a human lung carcinogen, which can potentially cause silicosis.
Silicosis is a fatal, long-term lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust.
3 Types of Silicosis:
1. Chronic Silicosis
As the most common form of silicosis that occurs after 15 to 20 years of low to moderate exposure to respirable crystalline silica, silica dust causes the lungs and the lymph nodes to swell.
Symptoms may not be obvious without a chest x-ray. As the disease progresses, sufferers will experience shortness of breath during physical activities and clinical signs of poor oxygen. The later stages might lead to fatigue, extreme shortness of breath, chest pain or respiratory failure.
2. Accelerated Silicosis
Appearing after high exposure to silica over a shorter period of time – often 5 to 10 years, symptoms include a severe shortness of breath, weakness and weight loss. It takes longer to become apparent than acute silicosis.
3. Acute Silicosis
Exposure to extremely high concentrations of silica can lead to acute silicosis over a period of months or in a span of 2 years.
The condition causes progressive breathlessness, weakness and weight loss which often leads to death.
Industries that are exposed to stone dust
Workers that are exposed to respirable crystalline silica are at risk. Industries that commonly deal with stone dust include:
- Stone Cutting
- Abrasives Manufacturing
- Sand Blasting
- Glass Manufacturing
- Road and Building Construction
Complications of Silicosis
Silicosis can increase the risk of other serious conditions such as:
- Lung Cancer
- Tuberculosis and other Chest Infections
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Pulmonary Hypertension
- Kidney Diseases
- Heart Failure
Silicosis is an incurable disease as damage to the lungs cannot be reversed. Treatment will slow down the growth of the disease, ease symptoms and improve quality of life.
Maintenance treatments include cough medicine, bronchodilators and oxygen; for respiratory infections, antibiotics are prescribed. In severe cases, a lung transplant may be an option but this is a complicated procedure.
People with silicosis should:
- Avoid further exposure to silica
- Stop smoking
- Have a regular test for tuberculosis
- Have a yearly flu jab and pneumonia vaccine
- Get adequate exercise
- Manage their weight
Industries that handle stone dust should:
- Use safety equipment and protective products
- Use a stone dust extractor from Airbench. We offer solutions for lower and higher volumes of stone dust; our new RP model with self-cleaning filters is the ideal option.
Protect your workers from silicosis by providing the appropriate work clothes and efficient dust extraction systems.