8 March 2019

Silica Dust – the ‘Asbestos’ of the Construction Industry

If you work in the construction industry, particularly work involving grinding, sandblasting or surfacing material containing silica (e.g. concrete or stone bench-tops), protecting yourself from the destructive effects of Silica dust is vital for your long-term health.

What is Silica?

Silica dust (crystalline silica) is found in many materials including some stone, sand, gravel, bricks, tiles, concrete and clay products, with the most common form being quartz. When these materials are worked on, silica is released – usually as a fine dust – 100 times smaller than a grain of sand and easy to inhale without realising.

Why is Silica so harmful?

Exposure to silica dust is directly linked to silicosis (an irreversible scarring and stiffening of the lungs), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and kidney disease.

“It is estimated that 230 people develop lung cancer each year as a result of past exposure to silica dust at work.”
– The Cancer Council.

If your work regularly involves cutting, polishing or working with bench-tops or other products containing high levels of silica, you are at high risk of inhaling silica dust and your respiratory health should be monitored with regular Silica Testing.

How does Silica Testing work?

The testing process is simple and painless:

  1. First, an occupational health nurse or doctor will conduct an assessment where they obtain a medical history and complete a physical examination of the respiratory system.
  2. Then a lung function test (spirometry) will measure how effectively air is being moved in and out of the lungs.
  3. Finally, a chest x-ray will be taken to identify any abnormalities.

After the initial testing and health assessment, yearly testing should be conducted to ensure the continued health of the respiratory system.