What is crystalline silica?
Crystalline silica is a potentially hazardous form of silica, a natural component of many materials used or encountered in construction activities.
Crystalline silica is present in materials such as sand, sandstone, granite, concrete and mortar. It is also often present in ceramic fibre that has been exposed to high temperatures over a long period of time.
Crystalline silica exposure risk
The risk from crystalline silica comes from breathing in the dust. Activities which can expose workers or members of the public to this dust include:
- stone masonry
- façade renovation
- blast cleaning of buildings, especially using sand
- many demolition processes
- concrete scabbling, cutting or drilling
Potential health risks of breathing in the fine dust of crystalline silica include:
- acute or accelerated silicosis, a disease affecting the lungs that can result in death within a few months or years
- progressive silicosis, a more slow-acting variety of silicosis caused by exposure over a longer period
- lung cancer
Controlling silica dust
If silica dust is discovered during sample testing, your first option should be eliminating crystalline silica by substituting another material.
If substitution is not an option, you should try to minimise activities like cutting or drilling that create silica dust.
As a last resort, you should control any dust created to reduce exposure, and make sure personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn by anyone at risk of exposure.
For expert, detailed advice on reducing the risk of exposure to crystalline silica, call Airsafe on (02) 9555 9034.