Crystalline silica dust – the health hazards and how to recognize them
The inhalation of dust containing quartz particles (crystalline silica) is a recognized health hazard, which, among other things, can lead to the fatal occupational lung disease Silicosis (commonly known as “grinder’s asthma”). Examples where the silica dust occurs include quarrying, the sand-, gravel-, and mining industry, foundries, asphalt, the manufacturing of glue, paint and plastic as well as steel and metal processing. Symptoms of silicosis include cough, fever, shortness of breath and cyanosis (bluish skin).
Dusty environments are a major problem in the construction industry and measurements have shown that many construction sites exceed the limit for silica dust. Workers who deal directly with concrete indoor might protect the respiratory tract with a mask, but what about the colleague standing a few meters away? They’re also exposed to harmful dust. Silicosis resulted in 46,000 deaths globally in 2013 down from 55,000 deaths in 1990.
Chronic silicosis takes years to develop. That’s why the signs might not appear until years after exposure. Taking action for your worker’s environment early could therefore save lives!
For a full list of symptoms, see below:
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath) exacerbated by exertion
- Cough, often persistent and sometimes severe
- Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Chest pain
- Gradual darkening of skin (blue skin)
- Gradual dark shallow rifts in nails eventually leading to cracks as protein fibers within nail beds are destroyed
In advanced cases, the following may also occur:
- Cyanosis, pale along upper parts of body (blue skin)
- Cor pulmonale (right ventricle heart disease)
- Respiratory insufficiency
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