Breathing in minute crystalline silica particles can cause multiple diseases, including silicosis, an incurable lung disease that leads to disability and death. Employees who work in occupations with silica exposure are also susceptible to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. These diseases are life-altering and debilitating disorders that annually affect thousands of workers across the United States.
In today's work climate, respiratory protection seems to be involved in all areas of safety, from the Construction Industry with issues surrounding the new Silica Standard requirements to indoor air quality in the General Industry arena. Having a good respiratory protection program could potentially prevent hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses every year.
Crystalline silica is a common mineral in the earth's crust, and is found in many types of rock including sand, quartz, and granite. When you inhale crystalline silica, the lung tissue reacts by developing fibrous tissue around trapped silica particles. Silica is present in both work and non-work environments, and exposure to crystalline silica dust has long been known to cause a disease called silicosis.