Crystalline Silica Dust Dangers – How To Avoid Them

Workplaces like stone workshops are dangerous places, for all manner of reasons… Not least crystalline silica dust.

Stone industry workers face some serious long-term dangers like the inhalation of dust particles and silica exposure.

These can cause respiratory problems such as asthma.

And long-term health issues aren’t far behind.

There’s scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis), silicosis…

And in the worst cases, a long march to an early grave.

Stone workers are at particular risk from long term exposure to – and inhalation of – crystalline silica and silica dust particles. 

Really any workshop which cuts, polishes and processes stone needs to take this danger seriously. 

Ask yourself – “as a business owner, am I doing everything possible to protect my employees from inhaling these crystalline silica dust particles?

If you thought no, you should read on…

Your best option is to adopt a two-stage approach.

Stage One is using a proactive dust monitoring system.

Stage Two is to set up dust control, extraction and mitigation. 

And the best decisions on Stage Two control start with good quality, accurate data from Stage One. 

The more accurate your data is, the better your decisions are going to be. 


What is a dust monitor?

Put simply, a dust monitoring system is air monitoring equipment that looks for silica dust and other dust particles. 

It constantly monitors the amount of dust in the air. 

It then alerts you when levels are too high. 

This lets you take quick action to stop the inhalation of dangerous dust particles like crystalline silica dust.

You use your monitor as an early warning system against harmful dust particles in the air you’re breathing. 

You can either set it up in a permanent fixed location or use a portable one.

To get the most valuable data, you’d ideally move your monitor around the factory.

Moving it around shows you where the risk is highest, instead of in just one fixed area.

The very best dust monitors are real time, which cuts the long wait times for sampling. 

It also means you work with up-to-the-minute data vs. data that’s weeks old.

Dust monitoring software, data and automation

Something else to think about with new silica dust monitoring systems is the level of automation. 

This plays a big part in both cost and how easy it is to use.

With better automation, you’re unlikely to forget doing something that’s important for safe working conditions.

Ideally, your dust monitor connects to software which constantly shows the time, date, and dust level. 

This way everyone can see when you need to take protection measures, like wearing silica dust masks or respirators. You also discover where you need more complex solutions.

The easiest way to understand the data is to see it in a dashboard that quickly shows you how much silica dust is in the air, and also shows what’s happening over time. 

If something creates lots of silica dust particles in the air for days, your data should let you quickly spot it. Then you can take action before things get out of hand.

What are the risks associated with respirable crystalline silica dust particles?

You breathe in dangerous dust particles like respirable crystalline silica (RCS) through your nose and mouth.

Then they pass into your lungs. 

These particles are invisible to the eye. They’re 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. 

That’s small enough not just to enter your lungs, but to get deep inside them.

So deep that they get into the parts of your lungs where the gas exchange happens. 

These dangerous dust particles then get stuck between the cells or even inside the cells of your body. 

This causes damage and scarring which only gets worse over time. 

Some of these conditions are short-lived. Others can be permanent. 

Some are fatal.

For example, one of the most common forms of occupational lung disease is silicosis.

Silicosis causes long-term scarring and irreversible loss in lung function. 

Silicosis can eventually lead to tuberculosis, or even lung cancer. 

Potential health problems other than silicosis can include Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). 

The UK’s Health & Safety Executive reports that COPD accounts for 34% of the current annual deaths from occupational lung disease.

Where is respirable crystalline silica found?

You’ll find respirable crystalline silica in a lot of materials, including sand, stone, and brick. 

You’ll also find it in concrete, tile, insulation, and pottery.

And of course you’ll find it in engineered stone, like your quartz slabs. 

And remember, crystalline silica dust particles are so small that you easily inhale them.

That’s why those who work with these materials are at a higher risk of lung disease.

What is the best way to monitor for respirable crystalline silica dust and other harmful dust particles?

Air XS respirable crystalline silica monitor from Trolex

The best way to monitor for respirable crystalline silica dust is with the right equipment.

A dedicated respirable crystalline silica monitor, like the Air XS from Trolex, is ideal.

The Air XS is released mid-2022. It’s a world first too.

[To stay up to date, follow Stone Industry Group’s Facebook page and add your email to the growing list of interested fabricators.]

The Air XS is a groundbreaking crystalline silica dust monitor. It uses brand new technology to spot crystalline silica dust particles. Then it measures the volume of crystalline silica dust in the air.

But crystalline silica dust isn’t everything. If you want to start monitoring your dust straight away, you’ll need some top-notch air monitoring equipment immediately. Once again, Trolex and Stone Industry Group have the solution here too. 

The XD One personal dust monitor from Trolex

The best way to monitor for harmful dust particles in the workplace is to use a particle-monitoring device such as Trolex’s XD One.

The XD One from Trolex is a lightweight, continuous, real-time personal dust monitor. You can wear it on your body or mount it on a wall or pole mount. 

It’s already available and in the field. And US and UK stone industries can get theirs through Stone Industry Group. 

US fabricators can grab theirs here

UK fabricators can get theirs here.

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