Surge in new cases of lung disease silicosis among stonemasons | 7.30
Video Credit: ABC News (Australia) On YouTube
Guess who is back to share with you another safety topic? That’s right-your favorite New York female construction worker. 🙂 We’ve landed on another Wednesday that puts us right smack in the middle of another work week, my friend. Let’s make the best of it and finish getting through the week by tackling each day and each task as it pops up as a priority. For this safety topic choice, I want to review the dangers of silica. Before I go off the deep end of the knowledge pool with this topic, I want to share some updates on my various projects. As I stated in my last post, I’m re-releasing it under the name “$ugar Momma Baddie” in my online e-store through Spring and Shopify. I have two designs to choose from: 1) Feisty Lady Trio 2) Sugar Momma Bed. Check out the revised designs in this blog post down below. So far, I still have the old slogans on the Shopify and Spring e-commerce platforms. I still need to craft the storefronts with the changed logos very soon. My last goal was to work on the revisions over the weekend. However, I fell short with honoring that goal. Therefore, I shall work on it during my down time during the week. I shall offer the “$ugar Momma Baddie” store links for the updated logos on the merchandise when I finally get around to making the revisions. The audio book version for, “Not All Girls Play With Dolls” is now available on Audible in audio form as well as hard cover, paperback, e-pub, and on iTunes. The audio book went live back on October 10th within the French, Dutch, U.K., and U.S. markets on Audible. The links for each market can be found further down in this blog post. It’s time to get into the purpose of this safety blog post. I opted to work on investigating the dangers of silica.
You may ask what is silica? Why do I even have to be concerned about it? Silica is a hard, unreactive, colorless compound which occurs as the mineral quartz and as a principal constituent of sandstone and other rocks. Silica is known chemically as the dioxide of silicon SiO2 that’s occurring in crystalline, amorphous, and impure forms: quartz, opal, and sand respectively. Quartz is the most abundant form of crystalline silica. Lesser common forms would be cristobalite and tridymite. Silica is a chemical compound that has been formed from both oxygen and silicon atoms. This chemical compound appears in two forms; hazardous crystalline, or non-hazardous amorphous. It is crystalline silica that causes all the trouble for workers around the globe. Breathing in dust from silica-containing materials can lead to a health condition that’s known as ‘silicosis’. Silica dust particles become trapped within the lung tissue that causes inflammation and scarring. The particles also reduce the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen which is absolutely essential to maintain life. Silicosis is a health condition that develops over time after constant exposure over 10-years or more. However, the disease can occur much more quickly after heavy exposures. Silicosis results in permanent lung damage and is a progressive, debilitating, and sometimes fatal disease. Sadly, there is no cure for silicosis and it could even be required to get a lung transplant. Workers who have been exposed to silica and those who have silicosis are also at increased risk of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a contagious and potentially life-threatening infection. Other diseases that morph as a result of silica exposure include: lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), kidney disease, or an autoimmune disorder. How do you even know if you have silicosis? Symptoms of silicosis may include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Your next question should be where can silica be found? Who are the people that are most exposed to silica? Silica is an abundantly natural material that can be found in various locations on Earth. Crystalline silica can be stumbled upon within: rock, stone, soil, clay, gravel, and sand. This natural compound can also discovered in concrete, brick, mortar, and other construction materials. Quartz is the most common form where crystalline silica is derived from. Quartz dust is known as, ‘respirable crystalline silica’. This means it can be taken into the body by merely breathing it in. Silica is present within building and landscaping materials such as: roof slate, bricks, tiles, concrete, glass, ceramics, and plastic composites. Silica is a pesky, lingering visitor during many common construction tasks such as: excavating, mining, quarrying, and tunneling. Miners often work to orchestrate an explosion of high-silica-content rock while in the midst of burrowing into the dark depths of the Earth. Once it becomes airborne, it wafts through the ventilation system where miners all take their breathes while burrowing and blasting underground. Masons are also within another industry that is exposed to high quantities of silica while handling cement and the dust that is laden with silica once the cement powder is disturbed. Masonry tasks, such as scabbling or concrete cutting, work to introduce silica into the workers lungs via the air. Silica dust is super fine and can easily be picked up once it becomes airborne. Silica is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. Because of how small the particles are, say approximately 5 micrometers in diameter, the tiny micro grains are transported into the lungs. Once silica is transported to the lungs, it works to permanently scar and damage the lung tissue. In addition to miners and masons, here is a list of the other industries where exposure is possible:
- engineers (ex: oil and gas engineers)
- workers breaking, crushing, grinding or milling material containing silica dust
- sand blasting or casting
- paving, surfacing or cement finishing
- demolition work
- road construction
- stone masonery
- mineral ore-treating processes
- manufacturer workers: of glass, ceramics, brick, concrete, tile, metals, or machinery
Within the United States, approximately 2.2 million workers were exposed to silica dust in the workplace. In China, is the top nation since it jumps up to 23 million workers who are impacted by silica exposure. India is the country that’s in second place with 10 million workers who inherited health problems from the workplace. It is estimated that over 500 construction workers are believed to die from exposure to silica dust every year here in the United States. What exactly happens to the lungs other than inhaling these tiny particles? Once the very fine silica dust nanoparticles are breathed in, they go deep into the lung where it is attacked by the immune system. This activation of the immune system causes swelling and a hardening of the lung tissue- known as fibrosis. Fibrosis causes the lung tissue to become permanently scarred and it can no longer be able to function properly. Depending on the duration and exposure levels, the process can happen quickly within a few years or slowly over a 10-20 year period of time. According to OSHA.gov, refer to OSHA 29 CFR 1926.1153 (d)(2)(v) that offers guidance on the exact limits of exposure and maximum time of exposure to crystalline silica. This OSHA section applies to all occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica in construction work, except where employee exposure will remain below 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air (25 μg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) under any foreseeable conditions. Meanwhile, the mandatory limit for silica dust exposure in Australia is 0.05mg/m3. It’s reported to be as low as 0.025 in some states of Canada. An independent occupational hygienist is recommended to be tasked with monitoring the air particulates if exposure if a business is believed to expose employees to more than what’s normally allowed. Silica testing equipment needs to meet OSHA ID-142; NMAM 7500 analytical method qualifications. Nowadays, small personal air monitors are available on the market to protect the average worker. Be sure to do your homework prior to making that purchase.
Now that we know what silica is and how it impacts the body, let’s look at the industry standard to control exposure. Industry professionals use what is known as the ‘hierarchy of risk control’. These are a series of controls that range from low to high reliability. The control measure with the highest rate of reliability would be to totally eliminate the hazard. If you remove the material with silica in it, you remove the hazard completely. Yes, I’m aware that this magic pill of elimination is not always available on the jobsite. If elimination is not remotely possible, the next control measure to attempt to substitute a lesser hazard than what is currently in place. The third layer would be engineer controls. This means that team will engineer a control system in an effort to reduce the exposure of silica. The fourth layer of control would be in the form of administrative controls. This includes offering signs and instructions for workers in an effort to provide data and reduce the worker’s level of exposure. The fifth and lowest reliability comes in the form of personal protective equipment. The employer offers the employee a series of protective equipment to arm the worker in an effort to limit exposure. Workers receive face masks and gloves to be used during their shift in an effort to lessen exposure to silica. If you are a worker on the jobsite, it is wise to save this hierarchy of risk control to serve as a guide if you are experiencing high levels of silica exposure. No one is going to be your advocate quite like your own self. Therefore, you need to do the homework in an effort to arm yourself with the right tools so that you can enjoy your senior years. Sadly, before I got into the role of management, I didn’t do much research on the effects of environmental hazards. I walked into work essentially blind since getting the job done was on the front burner. As a widowed mother, I was more worried about staying on the jobsite as long as possible so that I could put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. If your focus is the same, then you get where I’m coming from during my worker bee years with the tools. Try to learn at least one new thing per week that could aid in your longevity on this planet. Over time, it will cause you to be slowly become more aware of your surroundings.
By this point in this blog post, we have learned much more about silica. I do have some basic knowledge on the topic, via forced silica awareness courses that I had to take. I’m posing this next question. How do we drill even deeper into this topic? Let’s look into exactly what air monitors can be used on the jobsite. If you are on the jobsite and the employer is not willing to monitor the contaminants in the air, how do you arm yourself in a cost effective way? So far, we have learned that when an independent air monitor contractor comes in, they are looking to gather and record the contaminants during an 8-hour period of time. If the report comes back with high levels of silica, then the hierarchy of risk controls need to be implemented. The air is then re-monitored at time intervals that are based upon the initial report findings. According to OSHA.gov (https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2019-03-21), the time intervals are at least every 3 months after the first air sample. These mandatory intervals shall continue until the tests yield lower than the (PEL) permissible exposure limits. It appears that the “Hanna Instruments HI 770 Checker HC Handheld Colorimeter, For Silica High Range” is an air monitor that retails on Amazon for $59.95 with favorable reviews (and some sarcastic ones). It claims to be plus or minus 5% accuracy. For water monitoring, a Tap Score water monitoring kit retails on their website for $55.00. You purchase a water test kit on their website at: https://mytapscore.com/ and they will send you all that is needed for collection. After collecting a water sample, you ship it to their lab, and they will be send a report of the test results. Apparently, wells can get contaminated with silica and under certain conditions, that also poses as a health hazard. A number of silicon compounds, such as silicon halogens, are corrosive and extremely toxic. Silicon tetra chloride is an eye irritant, and may also cause breathing problems and skin irritation. In drinking water only silicic acid is present, which is relatively safe. I’m truly thankful that ingesting silicon doesn’t cause stomach cancer or other health problems.
It took a little bit of digging in order to find the equipment used for air monitoring. I found a PowerPoint presentation from a Salt Lake City based testing lab called ALS Limited on YouTube. I shall provide the link down below in case you want to drill into more details than what I’m offering in this blog post. Air testing is done with different types of cyclones. Here are five different types of ISO 7708 compliant cyclones: 1) SKC GS-3 Cyclone 2.75 L/min 2) Dorr Oliver Cyclone 1.75 L/min 3) SKC Aluminum Cyclone 2.5-2.8 L/min 4) BGI GK 2.69 Cyclone 4.2 L/min 5) Higgens-Dewell 2.2 L/min. Testing has been going on and evolving for the last 40-years. According to the presentation, the cyclone favored to be used today SKC GS-3 Cyclone 2.75 L/min. The testing cyclone uses a combination of gravity and air flow to capture and separate the air contaminants. Once the air intake brings in the air, the heavier particles drop to the bottom toward the grid pot. The lighter particles rise up toward the PVC filter cassette. Once the monitor is done with the sample, the PVC filter gets removed from the test machine. The filter within the PVC filter cassette is what gets sent to a lab for further analysis. It’s important to keep the cyclone in a vertical plane for the entire time. Depending on your objective, there are both disposable and reusable filters available for air sampling. The costs of these filters vary as per the unit used ($80+). The battery life on these cyclones air monitors will last for approximately 12-hours. Even if the test results don’t yield much silica, they encourage the testing of respirable dust since that still presents as a health hazard for workers. Whatever lab you choose, just make sure that they provide crystalline silica analysis by NIOS method 7500 and OSHA ID 142 using x-ray diffraction. Additionally, ensure that they are accredited by the (AIHA) American Industrial Hygiene Association as per OSHA Appendix A 29CFR 1910.1053 guidelines. I had a discussion on silica with my fellow site safety managers today. We all started out in construction with working with the tools in a variety of capacities. One thing that is the general consensus- we didn’t worry about our health as young workers. We are all aware of the risks taken and the fact that we may or may not encounter health problems, within the next 10-15 years, as a result our lack of concern for future health problems. We spoke about having no desire to wear the extra PPE since it serves as both a burden and a distraction while working. If you are a young construction worker, hopefully you will think about this discussion more than we did. We are not going to live forever and avoid the almighty ‘dirt nap’. However, you can at least try to minimize the health problems that will come at an advanced age.
Thanks for stopping by to review my “Leslie Talk” on the topic of the dangers of silica in the work place. This concludes when I have researched on the subject matter. I believe that I learned the most on this topic while on my research journey. If this content has sparked any questions, by all means let me know down in the comment section below. This blog post will either offer some useful information or. Feel free to share this blog post with your fellow construction buddy. I’m game to offer more bathroom reading material at the very least. 😛 I’m always open to safety topic suggestions so don’t be shy and share them. Don’t forget to follow me at leslie_m_jasper on Tik Tok or Verbally Disastrous on YouTube. Share your feedback on my content down in the comment section at the bottom of the blog post. If you appreciate listening to podcasts, I encourage you to review my last (8) podcast episodes that are listed down below from The Verbally Disastrous Podcast, via links for Spotify & YouTube down below. If you are into reading on a Kindle, check out my newest short story release that belongs to my Construction Tales-Told By A Woman Kindle Vella Library short story series on Amazon down below. My last short story #11 is entitled, “Juggling Motherhood & Working With The Tools”. This short story covers my life as a widowed, single mother in the era when I juggled both motherhood and my career as a journeywoman electrician. The previous short story is #10 is entitled, “Early Life Lessons & Characters To Meet As An Apprentice”. If anyone has read any of my other previous short stories, let me know your thoughts? Feel free to go ahead and check out the many links for my book #ConstructionTales down below. Now, it’s time to head back to what you were working on before so that you may wrap up your Wednesday work/school/home tasks so you can knock out another day in this week. As I have said many times before, my hat goes off to you if you are hitting that second job and/or night shift! I totally respect the hustle! Try your best to go home in the same condition that you came in earlier. I wish you a great morning/afternoon/evening on your side of the globe and a restful or productive day!
ALS Limited Silica Testing Webinar On YouTube:
“$ugar Momma Baddie” Sugar Momma Bed Logo:
“$ugar Momma Baddie” Fiesty Lady Trio Logo:
Not All Girls Play With Dolls- Within The U.S. Market:
Not All Girls Play With Dolls- Within The U.K. Market:
Not All Girls Play With Dolls- Within The France Market:
Not All Girls Play With Dolls- Within The Dutch Market:
Link To Construction Tales: Volume I: A Woman’s Journey To Become An Electrician (Paperback & Kindle) On Amazon:
Link To Construction Tales: A Young Person’s Guide To Accomplish Anything In Life (Paperback & Kindle) On Amazon:
U.S.A.: Use This Link For The Audio Version Of My Book #ConstructionTales On Audible:
United Kingdom: Use This Link For The Audio Version Of My Book #ConstructionTales On Audible:
France, Belgium, Switzerland: Use This Link For The Audio Version Of My Book #ConstructionTales On Audible:
Germany, Austria, Switzerland: Use This Link For The Audio Version Of My Book #ConstructionTales On Audible:
VERBALLY DISASTROUS PODCAST EPISODE LINKS:
Here is the link to the Verbally Disastrous Podcast on Spotify:
Verbally Disastrous! Season #1, Episode #43: Part A- Tramping In Cali! on YouTube:
Verbally Disastrous! Season #1, Episode #44: Part B- Tramping In Cali! on YouTube:
Verbally Disastrous! Season #1, Episode #45: Part C- Tramping In Cali! on YouTube:
Verbally Disastrous! Season #2, Episode #46:Early Life Lessons & Characters To Meet As An Apprentice On YouTube:
Verbally Disastrous Podcast! S#2, Ep. #47: Part A- Juggling Motherhood & Working With The Tools on YouTube:
Verbally Disastrous Podcast! S#2, Ep. #48: Part B- Juggling Motherhood & Working With The Tools on YouTube:
Verbally Disastrous Podcast- S#2, Episode #49: Just Released Not All Girls Play With Dolls!! on YouTube:
Verbally Disastrous Podcast- S#2, Episode #50: My First 7 Weeks As A Site Safety Manager on YouTube:
I shared my latest short story that has been loaded up to my Construction Tales-Told By A Woman Kindle Vella Library on Amazon. This is short story #11 entitled, “Juggling Motherhood & Working With The Tools”. This short story covers my life as a widowed, single mother in the era when I juggled both motherhood and my career as a journeywoman electrician. I share the various challenges I faced and lessons learned along the way. The previous short story is entitled: #10: “Early Life Lessons & Characters To Meet As An Apprentice”. I decided to write about some life lessons such as guarding your personal information, managing nasty rumors, combating sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism. Overall, the construction culture has improved dramatically over the past 25-years. Developing both a thick skin and a sharp tongue are key tools needed to survive various jobsite antics. I hope you learn something from this short story. There are more to come. These short stories are now also available as Verbally Disastrous podcast episodes.
Construction Tales- Told By A Woman: (11) Kindle Vella Short Stories On Amazon!!
The Verbally Disastrous Store On Tee-Spring:
Leslie M. Jasper
-Author And Host of the #VerballyDisastrous podcast now alive on many platforms that include: Acast, Amazon Music, Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Listen Notes, Overcast, Pandora Podcasts, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Pod Bean, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Podcast Gang, Radio Public, Reason, Soundcloud, Soundtrap, Spotify, Stitcher, Tune In, and YouTube.
-The Audio Blog: Verbally Disastrous Podcast And Construction Tales Blog. Now available on: Acast, Amazon Music, Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Listen Notes, Overcast, Pandora Podcasts, Player FM, Pocket Casts, Pod Bean, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Podcast Gang, Radio Public, Reason, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and Tune In.
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