What is Crystalline Silica Testing?

Incurable but preventable, silicosis is a lung disease that affects the population world-wide. Silicosis, most closely associated with the exposure and inhalation of respirable crystalline silica, exacerbates difficulties with breathing and can lead to disability and, in worse cases, death.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), roughly 2.3 million workers are in contact and exposed to crystalline silica while on the job. Because the health effects and the type of impact this type of exposure can lead to, it’s important to know and understand the necessity of respirable crystalline silica testing.

In this post, we go over what crystalline silica is, where it can be found, the harmful effects of overexposure and how to test for crystalline silica within the workplace.

Defining Respirable Crystalline Silica

To properly understand the dangers of respirable crystalline silica, it’s important to understand what exactly this mineral is.

Firstly, crystalline silica, a common mineral found within the earth’s crust, is used most commonly in both industrial products and construction sites. The prevalence of this mineral can be seen in many materials that are naturally-occurring as well.

This includes:

  • Stone
  • Sand
  • Concrete
  • Mortar
  • Quartz

When it comes to processes that can include the generation and exposure of crystalline silica, it can be seen in making products such as:

  • Glass
  • Bricks
  • Ceramic
  • Pottery
  • Artificial stone

What Can Create Crystalline Silica?

As a general rule of thumb, high-energy operations within the industrial and construction realms often generate very small particles of crystalline silica, thus making it respirable.

For a mineral to be respirable, simply means that particles are nearly 100 times smaller than sand and can be easily inhaled. Common activities that can create these harmful dust particles include:

  • Grinding, drilling, cutting, sawing or crushing rock
  • Using industrial sand
  • Sawing brick or concrete
  • Sanding concrete walls
  • Drilling concrete
  • Manufacturing brick
  • Manufacturing concrete
  • Crushing stone
  • Cutting stone
  • Hydraulic fracking

What Happens If I’m Overexposed to Crystalline Silica?

Inhaling and breathing in silica dust can cause several health issues when effective dust control measures are not properly implemented. Workers within exposed environments can suffer from both acute and chronic diseases.

Over time, these workers can develop debilitating and disabling lung diseases. The dangers of overexposure of silica extend beyond just lung disease, however. Overexposure can eventually lead to more than just airway diseases and include effects like:

  • Chronic silicosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic renal disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Kidney disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Increased risk of tuberculosis

Regarded as a known human carcinogen by the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, crystalline silica can be eliminated in workplaces when you enlist the services of an accredited laboratory for accurate testing.

The most “at-risk of overexposure” industries are listed as the following:

  • Construction
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Pottery products
  • Concrete products
  • Foundries
  • Jewelry production
  • Landscaping
  • Maritime work
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Asphalt products manufacturing
  • Paintings and coatings
  • Cut stone and stone products

Testing for Crystalline Silica With a Certified Laboratory

Crystalline silica testing is the identification of the presence of crystalline silica. The purpose of this type of test is to measure the quantity of exposure of the mineral and to take the proper precautions necessary to eliminate any dangerous overexposure.

The OSHA has identified the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica and if an environment exceeds that limit, action should be taken as soon as possible.

If your workplace is at risk of exposure above the PEL, get in touch with a certified and accredited laboratory to provide quick and accurate results for crystalline silica testing. EHS Laboratories offers inexpensive testing services and equipment to collect proper respirable silica and dust samples. Using our Loaner Pump Kit, customers can properly gauge the levels of respirable crystalline silica that they may be exposed to.

Get in touch today to get the testing equipment and results you need!