Black woman wearing ear protection

The Danger of Airborne Silica Dust

Crystalline silica is extremely common in nature. While it’s found in a number of forms, the most common is quartz. Quartz is used in industry as an abrasive, as a chemical component, and as an important element in electronics. It plays a key role in the creation of a number of common items we use every day.

However, in order for quartz to be utilized effectively, it needs to be shaped and processed, which can involve cutting, grinding, drilling and/or pulverizing the solid material. Inevitably this creates silica dust, made of very fine particles of silica which are invisible to the naked eye. Breathing these particles can cause a number of health problems, which is why OSHA sets strict environmental controls or businesses that use crystalline silica, in order to protect workers.

How Silica Dust Damages the Body

Silica dust is classified as a lung carcinogen, which means it predisposes those exposed to developing lung cancer, and the greater and the more frequent the exposure, the higher the chances of developing cancer climb.

Breathing silica dust can also cause silicosis, a lung condition that can be disabling as well as fatal in extreme cases.

When silica dust enters the lungs, it damages the bronchioles and alveoli, causing the formation of scar tissue. With repeated exposures this scar tissue can begin to impede the ability of the lungs to pull oxygen from the air, making breathing labored. Because lung function is reduced, sufferers are at risk for comorbid conditions such as tuberculosis and other infectious lung diseases.

How Silicosis Progresses After Repeated Exposures

The severity of the condition depends on the quantity of dust a person is exposed to, and the length of time exposures continue.

Low to moderate levels of exposure over a long period of time — 15 to 20 years generally — results in a chronic form of the condition. In many cases, early symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions, but a chest x-ray will reveal the true cause. Those with the disease will suffer shortness of breath during exercise and may show a reduced ability to transfer oxygen for carbon dioxide. As the disease progresses patients will become easily fatigued, and experience chest pain, painful shortness of breath and possibly respiratory failure.

Accelerated silicosis is caused by heavier exposures. These begin to cause noticeable damage much more rapidly, with major symptoms showing up within five to ten years. Those with accelerated silicosis suffer weakness, weight loss, and a severe shortness of breath.

In response to very heavy exposures, patients will develop acute silicosis. Symptoms can be noticeable within months and include a disabling shortness of breath, weakness, and severe weight loss that can lead to death.

Wood Trim Products Don’t Require Crystalline Silica

A number of artificial trim products on the market are made using crystalline silica. This puts workers at risk for exposure to silica dust. Wood trim products, on the other hand, don’t require crystalline silica at any stage in their production.

Belco Forest Products takes the impact our trim products have on the environment and on our people that produce them very seriously, and we are happy to sell trim that doesn’t involve the use of this dangerous material. If you’re concerned about similar issues, isn’t it time you switched to natural wood trim?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Preservative Treated Wood – What Does it Mean?

Wood is an extremely durable material. Properly dried, finished and sealed, wood can last for thousands of years, assuming it’s protected from water, high humidity, and insects. The irony is that when wood isn’t protected from the elements, this durable

Read More »

Why Job Callbacks are so Costly

As a home builder or building materials supplier, your ultimate goal is customer satisfaction. You want to provide materials to your client that provide a high level of reliability, perform as advertised, and are cost-conscious. Remaining profitable is of paramount

Read More »
paint brush on wood

Paint Adhesion-Why Is My Topcoat Coming Off?

Poor paint adhesion is an insidious problem. In some cases, the paint will bubble right away, but often the issue doesn’t become evident until some time has passed. The contractor might finish the job, assuming everything is fine, only to

Read More »
Aerial top view of summer green trees in forest in rural Finland.

Which Trim Millwork Products Are The Most Sustainable?

Homebuilders around the country are concerned about sustainability. They want to preserve the planet’s natural beauty, for their children and their children’s children. They recognize the impacts, both positive and negative, that large scale construction projects can have on the

Read More »

Natural Wood Removes Hidden Costs in Trim Loss

You build homes that give your customer quality and value. To do that, you need to be sure that your exterior trim product selection meets this criteria as well. Low maintenance is certainly a necessity for any exterior trim going

Read More »
Rain on umbrella

Moisture-The Root of Many Problems in Exterior Trim

How a company handles the moisture issues connected with the manufacturing process of trim products (window trim, fascia, barge boards, etc.), will determine the overall quality of the finished product when it is delivered to the job site. But equally

Read More »