As many Maryland workers know, on Feb. 18, two governmental agencies issued an alert concerning crystalline silica exposure. This follows the release of international reports showing the cumulative effects of such exposure.
Epidemiological data from Israel and Spain revealed a total of 71 workers who developed overt silicosis after exposure to crystalline silica. In this group of workers, 10 needed lung transplants. Silicosis is due to the inhalation of minute particles of silica that results in lung fibrosis. Symptoms associated with silicosis are dyspnea, fatigue and cough. Exposed workers are at a much higher risk for pulmonary disease, cancer of the lung and kidney problems.
In the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration jointly placed workers involved with the manufacture and installation of silica-based stone counter tops on alert for the dangers of silica dust. Both agencies stressed that injury may be negated by simple precautionary measures.
Some ways to counter exposure include checking the air in the workplace to determine the level of silica dust, training workers about the dangers associated with inhalation of silica particles and, if necessary, providing workers with masks that filter the air. In addition, procedures to reduce the dust level may be implemented.
If a worker exposed to hazardous air particles such as silica develops a lung disorder, he or she may require lengthy medical care as well as be unable to work. This may impact the worker's financial status. The worker may benefit from discussing his or her eligibility to receive workers' compensation with an attorney. The attorney may review the worker's situation and help by providing insight into the necessary steps and help the worker file a claim. If the claim is rejected, the attorney may help challenge the denial.