OSHA Quick Card: Silicosis

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Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Summary Statement

Brief description of the hazard associated with exposure to silica, including sources of exposure and how to prevent silicosis.

Silicosis is caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and most other types of rock, and it is used as an abrasive blasting agent. Silicosis is a progressive, disabling, and often fatal lung disease. Cigarette smoking adds to the lung damage caused by silica.

Effects of Silicosis

  • Lung cancer – Silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen.
  • Bronchitis/Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder.
  • Tuberculosis – Silicosis makes an individual more susceptible to TB.
  • Scleroderma – a disease affecting skin, blood vessels, joints and skeletal muscles.
  • Possible renal disease.

Symptoms of Silicosis

  • Shortness of breath; possible fever.
  • Fatigue; loss of appetite.
  • Chest pain; dry, nonproductive cough.
  • Respiratory failure, which may eventually lead to death.

Sources of Exposure

  • Sandblasting for surface preparation.
  • Crushing and drilling rock and concrete.
  • Masonry and concrete work (e.g., building and road construction and repair).
  • Mining/tunneling; demolition work.
  • Cement and asphalt pavement manufacturing.

Preventing Silicosis

  • Use all available engineering controls such as blasting cabinets and local exhaust ventilation. Avoid using compressed air for cleaning surfaces.
  • Use water sprays, wet methods for cutting, chipping, drilling, sawing, grinding, etc.
  • Substitute non-crystalline silica blasting material.
  • Use respirators approved for protection against silica; if sandblasting, use abrasive blasting respirators.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke near crystalline silica dust.
  • Wash hands and face before eating, drinking or smoking away from exposure area.