Nearly every home renovation includes work that must be done in the kitchen. From new floors to modern cabinets, homeowners wish to give parts of their house an upscale feel. Many times, they will elect to use engineered stone as an upgrade to their existing countertops. Unfortunately, the creation of this material can leave workers gasping for air.
A report published by the CDC focused on employees tasked with cutting, grinding and polishing the materials in a factory setting. The data highlighted 18 cases of illness and two worker deaths.
Many engineered stone countertop products are known as “quartz surfacing” which combines quartz aggregate with various resins to create a tough, attractive surface. This product likely contains significant amounts of crystalline silica. By cutting, sanding or grinding these surfaces, silica dust is released into the air. If this dust is inhaled, it can lead to a deadly lung disease called silicosis.
What is silicosis?
Silicosis is a disease of the lungs that is acute, chronic and accelerated. Caused by breathing in fine silica dust and other particulate matter, workers in numerous fields can suffer devastating harm. With the growing desire for quartz-based engineered countertops, the need for high-demand production facilities has skyrocketed. Workers who were exposed might suffer coughing, fatigue, weight loss, restricted breathing and chest pains. After prolonged exposure, workers might face diagnoses of lung cancer, tuberculosis or chronic bronchitis.
Can toxic exposure be prevented?
Unfortunately, the very nature of the product demands that the dangerous dust will be produced. The workplace must be diligent in protecting workers from prolonged exposure. OSHA recommendations include:
- Working with wet stone rather than dry
- Installation of vacuum or air filtration systems
- Requiring workers to wear respirators
- Providing industrial laundry services to remove dust from work clothes
- Educating workers on the dangers of both primary and secondary exposure
Generally, a combination of these efforts would be most successful.
Workers must take steps to remain safe during the construction, shaping or cutting engineered stone. These surfaces might pose no danger to consumers, but the risk of deadly exposure is significant to workers. If you have suffered a serious illness or worsening condition due to toxic exposure in the workplace, it is crucial that you act quickly to protect yourself and your future finances.