Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay in varying degrees. Sandstone for example contains more than 70% silica, whereas granite might contain 15-30%. Silica is also a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar.
Silica dust is generated when cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing the materials mentioned above. Some of this dust is fine enough to get deep into the lungs and, like asbestos, it only takes a small amount to cause permanent harm and disability. The fine dust is known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and is too fine to see with normal lighting. It is commonly called silica or silica dust.
Exposure would not be uncommon for those working in aside range of industries such as sand blasting, stone masonry and stone cutting, those working with sandstone in construction and demolition. Also those exposure to concrete and paving materials and those working in the pottery, ceramic and glass manufacturing industries, also mining and quarrying.
This is a becoming a hot topic at the moment as the long term affects of exposure to silica are well known and in this day and age, there is little excuse for employers not to take ample measures in the form of masks and breath apparatus to reduce the health risks of exposure to silica. The Health and Safety Executive recently fined a number of firms for exposing their staff to the dangers of silica.
Whilst fines are a clear deterrent to employers, it is little comfort to construction workers who may have been cutting paving slabs and tiles for many years without using masks or having been adequate training. The effects of breathing in silica are irreversible and can cause life-threatening diseases including silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), which can lead to impaired lung function, lung cancer and death. Sadly these conditions are under diagnosed or are mistakenly linked solely to a history of smoking.
The NHS provides invaluable guidance on the symptoms of silicosis and when you should attend your GP.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to silica and have a persistent cough, persistent shortness of breath, feel weak and tired and have worked in one of the industries mentioned in this article, then call us today on 0800 294 3065.