OSHA, NIOSH Issue Countertop Silica Hazard Alert

"Significant crystalline silica exposure during manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and manufactured stone countertops" are a health hazard, the agencies' hazard alert warns.

OSHA and NIOSH have issued a hazard alert about protecting workers from silica exposure during countertop manufacturing and installation, a very common residential remodeling project.

Their alert warns about "significant crystalline silica exposure during manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and manufactured stone countertops."

Their news release says the alert "follows reports of 46 workers in Spain and 25 workers in Israel who developed silicosis – an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease – as a result of exposure to crystalline silica in their work manufacturing stone countertops. Ten of the workers in Israel required lung transplants as a result of their condition."

The two agencies have identified exposure to silica as a health hazard to workers involved in stone countertop operations in the United States, both in fabrication shops and during in-home finishing/installation. The alert explains how the hazard can be mitigated with dust controls.

"Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks and sand. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at risk for silicosis. Symptoms of silicosis can include shortness of breath, cough and fatigue, and may or may not be obviously attributable to silica," the release says. "Workers exposed to airborne crystalline silica also are at increased risk for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease."

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