General Construction 338 views Aug 01, 2018
Silica – looking at the facts and effects

When you look on a food label, chances are you will see some ingredients you have never heard of, some of which you might even find hard to pronounce. Found in many products, silicon dioxide or silica is, for example, one such ingredient writes Gregory A. Cade .

What is silica?

Silica is a natural element, composed of two of the earth’s most common materials: oxygen and silicon, more precisely: one atom of silicon and two atoms of oxygen – from where the chemical formula SiO2.

Quartz represents the most ordinary form of crystalline silica and is the second most common mineral on earth. It is found in almost every type of rock and thus in nearly all mining operations.

The first industrial use of silica was most likely related to the glass making activity in three to five thousand years BC. It continued to support progress throughout history, being an important factor in the industrial revolution, especially in the construction, ceramic and glass industries and it contributes even today in key branches of technology, providing material for silicon chips and computer mice.

Quartz is the solely natural silica mineral used in significant quantity: millions of tons are annually consumed by industry. Crushed sandstone is used in the construction of roads and railways, relatively pure quartz is important as ingredient for glass and porcelain manufacture and high purity quartz is fused to achieve premium optical glass. Quartz and its derivatives were also used since antiquity as semiprecious gems or ornamental stones. Precious opal, which is a form of silica, has been a gemstone since the Roman period.

When does silica represent a danger?

Silica is found in many materials from construction sites, including sand, soil, concrete, rock or granite. The dust created when any of those materials are drilled, cut or disturbed in any way can contain small silica particles. The particles are so small that they cannot even be seen and it can take only a minor amount of airborne silica dust in order to create a health problem. Yet it is important to know that repeated exposures to silica dust can even raise the chances of developing a serious lung disease.

What kind of diseases can silica lead to?

Extended and aggressive exposure to fine particles of silica dust can lead to the very well known occupational illness called silicosis, but lung cancer, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or even autoimmune diseases cannot be ignored as well.

Silicosis is one of the world’s oldest occupational illnesses. It is a nodular progressive fibrosis caused by the deposition of fine respirable silica particles in the lungs. This disease mainly affects people exposed in the workplace, as environmental exposures to silica dust are not dangerous enough to cause this occupational disease. Because silicosis has a very long latency period, the new cases registered today are due to exposure of a few decades ago. There is no specific treatment, removing the source of exposure is often important in preventing the disease from getting worse.

Any potential cancer risk due to respirable crystalline silica exposure is limited to lung cancer and any cancer effect is actually secondary to silicosis. A recent study determined that between 3,600 and 7,300 cases of silicosis occur annually in the United States. The Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. has successfully represented people with silica-related diseases, so if you have been diagnosed with such an illness, they are able to help you file an action against responsible parties.

The most common silica containing products

A lot of materials contain silica and when they are used in large quantities at workplace, they can generate silica dust. Among these materials are abrasives, concrete, dirt, coal dust, filter aids, natural graphite, mineral products, paint, pavement, asphalt, cosmetics, cleansers, bricks and tiles.

Who is at risk?

Industries where significant amounts of respirable silica dust are present include mining, quarrying, mineral processing, bricks and tiles and constructions. So the people who are at risk in developing a silica-related illness are mainly workers from these occupational fields.

Another important aspect is that the response of an individual is likely to depend on the nature of the silica dust, the dust fraction, the duration and frequency of the exposure and also the smoking habits.

“People should be well aware of the dangers silica particles actually represent and to protect themselves accordingly by avoiding industrial sites that perform high-energy operations such as cutting, drilling or crushing stone or by carefully reading the list of ingredients from cleansers or cosmetics.” said Gregory Cade, attorney specializing in asbestos and environmental law.  However, if you or a loved one have already been exposed to silica dust and unfortunately have developed a silica related illness, you should seek medical attention right away and waste no time in contacting a law firm for legal representation, as it would not be advisable to let reckless companies get away with it.

About the author:

Gregory A. Cade has been an attorney for over 20 years, specializing in environmental, mesothelioma & asbestos law. His firm, Environmental Litigation Group, has processed over 200.000 claims and has recovered more than $1 billion for asbestos victims. Gregory always treats his clients with professionalism and compassion and he always fights to ensure that they get the help they need.