Crystalline Silica Exposure Testing

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Crystalline silica is an important industrial material found abundantly in the earth’s crust. Quartz, the most common form of silica, is a component of sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. Materials containing quartz are found in a wide variety of workplaces.

Silica dust is hazardous when very small (respirable) particles are inhaled. These respirable dust particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause disabling and sometimes fatal lung diseases, including silicosis and lung cancer, as well as kidney disease.

Occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica occurs when cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, ceramic tiles, rock, and stone products. Occupational exposure also occurs in operations that process or use large quantities of sand, such as foundries and the glass, pottery and concrete products industries. OSHA estimates that more than 2.3 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to dust containing crystalline silica with nearly 90% of those workers employed in the construction industry.

Industries and operations in which exposure to crystalline silica can occur include, but are not limited to:

  • Construction
  • Glass products
  • Pottery products
  • Structural clay products
  • Concrete products
  • Foundries
  • Dental laboratories
  • Paintings and coatings
  • Jewelry production
  • Refractory products
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • Cut stone and stone products
  • Refractory installation and repair
  • Railroad track maintenance
  • Hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil
  • Abrasive blasting in
    • Maritime work
    • Construction
    • General industry

These Safety and Health Topics pages offer guidance that may be useful to workers and employers across a number of industries. Resources for general industry and construction are highlighted where appropriate.

OSHA estimates about 2.3 million workers face exposure to silica dust at work, including 2 million construction workers and 300,000 workers in manufacturing facilities, foundries, and energy production.  It is estimated that the new rule will save more than 600 lives and 900 new cases of silicosis annually.