Crystalline Silica


Definition - What does Crystalline Silica mean?

Crystalline silica refers to a type of composite material that derives from a natural mineral called quartz found in granite, rock, sand, and soil, appearing as a residual byproduct from manual labor tasks such as blasting, cutting, drilling, and sawing. Many industrial sectors carry essential job demands where the inhalation of crystalline silica deposits heighten workers’ risk factors to pathological conditions that can compromise the integrity of the lungs.

WorkplaceTesting explains Crystalline Silica

Construction, mining/quarrying, glassblowing, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) businesses are often hotbeds for prolonged exposure to particulate matter (PM), whether it is dust, chemical fumes, and vapor mists, that can exacerbate the morbidity rate in employees. Hence, crystalline silica is identified as a carcinogen, highlighting the development of progressive malignancies based on the level of toxicity that individuals experience. Depending on the workplace environment, a ratio of moderate-to-high concentration grades along with prolonged exposure to crystalline silica debris are often catalysts for respiratory conditions such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and silicosis.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has introduced the Permitted Exposure Limit (PEL), a regulatory criterion for preventing overexposure to crystalline silica particles inside a standard eight-hour work shift. Moreover, employers must assume precautionary measures designed to reduce or eliminate ambient crystalline silica particles among other biohazards in line with OSHA-based protocol for promoting a safe and healthy work climate. Several methods to accomplish this goal can include using personal protective equipment (PPE), installing exhaust ventilation units to disperse airborne contaminants, and frequent education and training programs emphasizing awareness of the detrimental impact of respirable crystalline silica.

A buildup of crystalline silica in the lungs can adversely dictate the interplay between oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide (Co2) expulsion, interfering with regular breathing patterns. Incidentally, consistent health checkups are a viable approach to documenting the physiological function of the lungs with persistent symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain serving as debilitating culprits in respiratory impairment.

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