Silica Hazards from Engineered Stone Countertops

A new engineered stone countertop product known as “quartz surfacing,” was created in the late 1980s by combining quartz aggregate with resins to create a product for use in home building and home improvement.  Manufacturing of this material, including products such as CaesarStone™, Silestone™, Zodiaq™, or Cambria™ is a fast growing industry.  First made in Israel and Spain, production of these materials has grown world-wide, driving quartz slab imports to the U.S. up 63% between 2011 and 2012 and 48% between April 2012 and April 2013 (Schwartzkopf 2013, StatWatch 2013).  Quartz surfacing materials may contain up to 93% crystalline silica (Dupont 2010).  In contrast, the percent of crystalline silica in a slab of granite is less than 45%, darker color granite has a lower percentage (Simcox et al. 1999).  Workers who fabricate and install quartz surfacing are at risk for overexposure to silica released during sizing, cutting, grinding and polishing.  Prolonged inhalation of dust from silica-containing materials can lead to silicosis (scarring of the lungs).  In addition to silicosis, scientific evidence indicates that occupational exposure to crystalline silica puts workers at increased risk for  other serious health conditions: chronic obstructive lung disease, lung cancer, kidney and connective tissue disease, and tuberculosis.  The focus of this blog is on silicosis, which has occurred in multiple workers in this industry.

Source: http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2014/03/11/countertops/

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