While the detrimental effects of second-hand smoke and asbestos exposure have been known to consumers for decades, there are many other substances Americans encounter and may breathe in that they may not know are also dangerous. Silica dust, however, is one of those substances that is simply not talked about enough.
Silica dust comes from simple everyday working materials that are found in homes and businesses. Many people who work in the construction field are frequently exposed to silica dust, but they aren’t the only ones who face exposure. The chances are that you have already been exposed to it, especially if you are a homeowner or take part in home renovations and repairs. The truth is that too many people are simply unaware of what silica dust is and how harmful it can be to your lungs and overall health.
Silica dust can cause silicosis, which could not only play havoc on your lungs but can also lead to other horrific diseases, cancer included. That is why it is important to be cognizant of what silica dust is and in which ways it could harm you. If you think you may have already been exposed to silica dust and have suffered negative effects to your health, contact a skilled environmental lawyer.
Silica is a compound that is found in many materials in the construction industry. These materials include rock, concrete, brick, stone, drywall, and much more. When any of these materials containing silica are cut, sanded, drilled, chipped, or grinded, silica dust is sent into the air. Silica dust contains tiny particles called respirable crystalline silica (RCS).
If silica dust repeatedly finds its way into your lungs over a period of time, it can cause severe damage. RCS becomes embedded in your lungs, and over a period of time, causing your lungs to become scarred and inflamed, making it difficult to breathe.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reported that RCS particles can cause a plethora of diseases. According to OSHA, these diseases include lung cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and silicosis.
Silicosis is a type of lung disease that is caused by the breathing in of silica dust. Silicosis, because it brings about symptoms of coughing, inflammation, and fibrosis (scarring), identifies as a form of pneumoconiosis, one of a group of interstitial lung diseases that develops from the breathing in of certain types of dust particles.
There are three types of silicosis.
Symptoms are chronic cough, inflammation, and fibrosis. You can experience fatigue, shortness of breath, and weight loss. It is classified as a lung disease.
Because silica dust attaches to your respiratory tract, and it can easily damage your alveolar macrophages — the main phagocytes of the innate immune system that work against the infectious or allergic particles that invade your respiratory tract. For this reason, severe exposure to silica dust can also cause you to develop an autoimmune disorder.
The mining and quarrying industries are known for exposing workers to a number of lung diseases, silicosis included. General construction is always placing people at risk according to what materials are worked with. People who work in the building and demolition industries are constantly coming into contact with silica dust.
Other industries or occupations are those that deal with stone, countertop, pottery, ceramics, sandblasting, glassmaking, and foundry work. People who are handy in the home and like to do renovations could also have enough exposure to silica dust to develop silicosis. Remember that acute silicosis can develop in just several months.
In the workplace, employers should be cognizant of silica dust exposure and risks, the same as with any other work hazards. OSHA has developed guidelines for industries where exposure to silica dust is rampant. These guidelines include specialized training, wearing efficient respirators, and using specialized equipment that reduces the amount of dust that spreads to the air.
An integrated water delivery system for handheld power saws in an example of specialized equipment, streaming water onto the blade. The blade in turn wets the material that is being sawed, and that reduces the amount of dust being spread into the air.
For work inside the home, make sure that your contractor is following stringent guidelines to keep you and your family safe. If your contractor is not aware of specific guidelines that limit exposure to silica dust, it might be a good idea to either insist your contractor learn about them or find another contractor, which may depend on the amount of work you are having done, of course.
If you are doing the work yourself, take precautions. Look into water and vacuum systems that capture silica dust. It is always a good idea to close off work areas to other parts of the home; this will keep the dust in an enclosed area.
Make sure to protect yourself the same as if you were doing it for a living. Shop around for a good respirator. If possible, do any sawing or cutting, or anything that could send dust into the air, in a location other than inside the home. Also make sure to clean up the dust. Use a vacuum, cloth, or sponge to eliminate the dust.
Do not eat or drink in work areas, and avoid using tobacco. Wash your hands and face whenever you take a break, and change your clothes and take a shower when finished. If you work around silica dust as part of your job, make sure to change your clothes before driving home and place them in a sealed bag.
If you have been diagnosed with a serious health condition due to exposure to silica dust or any substance in the home or at work, you need a competent lawyer to help you navigate your way through the legal process. Our experienced Wilmington environmental lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. will fight hard to bring you the results you deserve. Call us at 302-656-5445 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients in Dover, New Castle County, Sussex County, and throughout Delaware.