In a world packed with so many regulations, rules, and restrictions, it can be easy to proceed through the day with an inherent trust in the safety of the food we eat, the tools we use, and the environments we exist in. Many of us think of getting sick from our workplace environment as something that has been completely eliminated, something that is reserved for the annals of Charles Dickens novels and nineteenth century factories.
Workplace hazards are still very much alive for many workers around the country, however. Take silica dust, for example. It doesn’t come from working 16 hours in a poorly maintained factory, but from something that seems much more innocent; engineered stone countertops, such as quartz.
Processed quartz contains silica levels up to 90 percent, The New York Times reports, and when these engineered stone slabs are cut, drilled, or ground down, silica dust is released into the air. If workers inhale these particles it can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, and kidney disease.
Renewed scrutiny in silica and the risks it poses to workers came about after OSHA updated its rules to reduce silica exposure in late March.
A 2013 study done by researchers at the University of Oklahoma found that much of the safety equipment used at countertop fabrication companies in the state were not adequate in protecting against silica inhalation. And while the new regulations are a good start for workers in America, the problem stretches outside of U.S. borders.