Silica dust and silicosis in the stone industry

The effect of silicosis in the stone industry is not an unknown issue.

But to what extent are workers aware of this issue? Are the specific causes of silicosis in the stone industry common knowledge? 

A scientific report from highlights the difference between engineered stone and natural stone in relation to their silica content, shedding some light on where the cause of silicosis could lie in the stone industry. 


Silica dust is causing life-changing problems for stone masons

Silicosis is one of the most dangerous respirable diseases in the workplace, especially when exposure to silica dust is a common occurrence, such as in the stone industry. 

It is estimated that globally, 40 to 50 million workers are exposed to silica dust in the workplace. 

The Natural Stone Institute guide to awareness and prevention of silicosis determines that exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) specifically in the stone industry comes from cutting or grinding materials, most commonly which contain quartz, which is composed of silica. 

Engineered stone vs Natural stone

The purpose of the study from was to see, in relation to RCS particulates, what the most threatening scenario was for worker’s health, in real-time, when working with different compositions of stone. 

In the study, 12 engineered stones were assessed against three natural stones – white marble, white granites and black granites. By dry-cutting all stones, dust was captured in a closed environment and subjected to various assays to determine both chemical and physical properties. 

The 12 engineered stones’ silica content varied from one another, and the total RCS content made up of quartz and cristobalite ranged from 70.4% to 90.9%. In comparison, the natural stone’s silica content ranged from 3.5% to 30.1%, marking a clear difference. 

As well as this, the dry-cutting of engineered stone generated finer RCS particles with one engineered stone having an average size of as little as 190 nanometres, meaning it could reach deeper in the lungs causing more damage. In contrast, the smallest average particle size of the natural stone was black granite, with an average size of 503 nanometres. 

The results of this study concluded that dust emissions from engineered stones had a much higher concentration of quartz and cristobalite, therefore having a higher silica content and more damaging impact on respiratory health. 

Is there a solution to silicosis within the stone industry?

Ultimately, the report concluded that the higher the silica content of the stone, as well as the smaller size of RCS particles, the more dangerous it is to respirable health. 

The Natural Stone Institute conclude in their guide to silicosis that there is no cure for silicosis; however, “with the proper equipment, training, vigilance and continual monitoring, you and your shop floor can be free of the dangers”.  

Being aware that silica content is higher within engineered stone, compared to natural stone, and by monitoring for this, as well as using correct respirable protective equipment (RPE) when working with engineered stone, it allows for correct precautions to be taken to avoid silicosis.  

We’ve developed the world’s first real-time silica monitor, the Air XS Silica Monitor, and this is one of the tools that will help to prevent silicosis for stone masons and the stone industries, along with other health and safety controls. 

If you would like to learn more about our Air XS Silica Monitor, and specifically how it can help your safety processes to keep your workers safe then complete the get in touch form below to arrange a call with one of our experts today. 

    Tommy Walsh: “Act now to avoid the next asbestos” as silicosis cases rise in the UK

    The UK’s favourite DIY and home improvement expert, Tommy Walsh, is calling for more to be done to protect workers from the dangers of silica dust.

    Tommy believes that the issue of air quality on building sites should be a national concern, and that silica should be viewed the same way as asbestos.

    While he became aware of silica particulates as an issue around five years ago, in relation to the disposal of plasterboard, Tommy says that he has not heard the issue discussed on building sites. This is in spite of the fact that 81% of those regularly exposed to silica are construction workers.

    Silicosis: A national concern

    Tommy shared that the majority of health and safety concerns on smaller building sites are focused around obvious, external risks, such as falling from a ladder, electricity and water. As a result, he believes that more needs to be done to raise awareness of “invisible” risks, such as silicosis, which is the most common chronic occupational lung disease in the world.

    More from Tommy, “over half of the country’s construction is done by small builders and ‘One-man-band’ outfits. Air quality has always been a secondary concern to them, as they don’t know enough about it. Everyone would rather work safe than not safe, but they can’t do that if they don’t have the awareness. Health and safety can often be ignored due to cost-saving, time-saving, or ignorance, but if we can normalise the importance of air quality it will make it harder to ignore.”

    Recent data has shown that silica is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos, with cases and exposure rising year on year. There are 12,000 deaths a year in the UK from inhalation of particulates including silica in the workplace, opposed to just 142 recorded due to workplace accidents between 2020/2021.

    The scale of the issue is not matched by the awareness and action needed to prevent it.

    Silicosis, as well as being the world’s most common occupational lung disease, can increase a person’s risk of tuberculosis, kidney disease, arthritis, and lung cancer. The consequences of silicosis have been estimated to cost employers in the UK construction industry over £1 million a year.

    In order to raise awareness and protect construction workers from this preventable disease, Trolex have launched the Air XS Silica Monitor, which can provide real time levels of dangerous particulates in the air.

    Requiring no complicated set-up and only five minutes of maintenance a month, the Air XS Silica Monitor is easy-to-use and provides accurate, real-time RCS monitoring with minimal training, letting workers know if the amount of RCS content in their workspace is increasing as they work and when it has risen to dangerous levels.

    To find out more, get in touch today using the contact form below to speak to one of our experts about the Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor.

      New Trolex Silica Detection Technology Inspires New APPG Perspective on Respiratory Health

      You may have seen The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Respiratory Health report ‘Silica – the next asbestos’?

      It’s a shocking read. 

      “Construction workers are still 100 times more likely to die from a preventable occupational disease than from an accident. We also know that approximately 12,000 deaths in the industry each year are linked to exposure to dust and chemicals.”

      “Figures from IOSH show that roughly half a million people are exposed to RCS at work in the UK. They estimate that in Europe as a whole, 81% of these are employed in construction or in manufacturing products used in that industry.”

      Originally released in March 2020, there’s an updated version of the report scheduled for release by the end of June 2022. 

      One of the reasons it’s been re-written is because of new advances in detection technology. Experts at Trolex brought our new technology to the APPG’s attention and explained our nine-year silica detection R&D project that resulted in development of the new real-time silica monitor – work that we’d kept closely under wraps until mid 2021.

      The Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor is the world’s first real-time silica monitoring and measurement device, and the technology used is so cutting edge that after even a brief meeting, the parliamentary committee could quickly see the significant contribution the Air XS Silica Monitor will make in saving lives in the long term.

      Real time. Accurate. Affordable. 

      So, now, instead of paying third party H&S specialists to set up their monitoring kit, record air quality, send those readings to a lab and charge a small fortune each and every time they report back, you will soon be able to measure airborne RCS particles in real time. All at a fraction of the cost of old-fashioned laboratory analysis.

      Silica-specific detection: A changing landscape.

      The original report refers to Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) of dust. It says:

      “Dust monitoring is vital. Technology advances mean that new methods of real-time exposure level monitoring are now possible. Knowing what the actual exposure levels are is important as exposure will depend on the actual task (e.g. cutting concrete is higher risk than breaking concrete, and the actual exposures depend on the concrete mixture).

      The new Code of Practice for Tunnelling […] that requires the use of new technology which is just becoming available and gives an instantaneous measurement.”

      The instantaneous measurement the report refers to is the measurement of a variety of dust and particulates (something we already do with our Air XD Real-Time Dust Monitor and XD One Personal Dust Monitor products) – not specifically silica. Silica always being too difficult to uniquely identify. 

      Until now.

      Game Changing RCS Detection Technology

      Our new silica-specific monitoring technology is a game changer.

      By working with the authors of the APPG report alongside Patrick and his team to share the features, benefits and thinking behind the new real-time silica monitoring technology they’ve been able to update the report with new advice on how to best protect workers from the dangers of respirable crystalline silica (RCS). 

      As I mentioned earlier, you can read the new version when it’s released in June.

      Or if you’d like to find out more then get in touch. Or even better, become an Early Adopter of the Air XS Silica Monitor, and not only will you have all the latest news sent straight to your inbox, but you’ll also instantly qualify for the Air XS Silica Monitor discount programme.

      Image of Air XS Silica Monitor
      Air XS Silica Monitor

      Image of Breathe and BreatheLITE Software
      Breathe and BreatheLITE Software

      Book your demonstration today.

      Our global distribution partners and in-house experts are on hand to guide you through the details of the Air XS Silica Monitor. Want to know more about real-time RCS detection? Get in contact using the contact form below or contact your local distributor for more information.

        The Centre for Work Health and Safety launch the Air XS Silica Monitor in New South Wales

        The world’s first real-time respirable crystalline silica (RCS) detector, the Air XS Silica Monitor, was launched in Australia for the very first time on 7 April 2022.

        The Centre for Work Health and Safety unveiled the product along with our Australian distributors Active Environmental Solutions (AES) to the Australian public at the Shellbourne Hotel in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW).

        World-first technology

        With guests from an array of industries including construction, tunnelling and mining, it was an event in which over 50 influences turned up to see the world’s first real-time RCS detector.

        As the silicosis problem continues to grow in Australia, particularly in NSW, where 75 cases of silicosis have been recorded since 2020, the Air XS Silica Monitor has the potential to provide a solution to this problem.

        This was an opportunity for major influencers in their respected industries to see just why everyone is so excited about the Air XS Silica Monitor.

        The importance of getting real

        The event started with an ‘acknowledgement of the country’ from the Centre for Work Health and Safety, demonstrating the issue of silicosis in Australia and how important it is to accurately monitor for RCS.

        The Air XS Silica Monitor is a major technological advancement globally in RCS detection, and nowhere more so than in Australia. So much so that a rebate scheme has been put in place by the NSW government in order to urge companies to do more when it comes to safeguarding their employees against killer particulates in the workplace.

        The rebate scheme means that all NSW businesses are eligible for $1000 rebate refund at time of purchase of each Air XS unit, as well as potential small businesses located in NSW.

        With demonstrations now available for all businesses, not only in NSW, but across the whole of Australia, the incentive to ‘get real on silica monitoring’ has never been higher.

        A huge success

        After a full demonstration of the unit from Aleks Todorovic, Managing Director at AES, it was evident just how successful this could be in NSW, as well as a chance for individuals to see just how this device works, up close and personal in real-time.

        Aleks added, ‘After the presentations, we were inundated with enquires and requests for demonstrations, so I have no doubt the Air XS is going to be a huge success’.

        The launch of the Air XS Silica Monitor in NSW coincided with our UK launch at the Health and Safety Event at the NEC in Birmingham, which you can read more about here.

        As well as this, the real-time RCS monitor was also on show at Coverings 2022 Stone and Tile trade event at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in Nevada, USA.

        Book your demonstration now

        To learn more about the world’s first real-time RCS detection book your demonstrations now.

        If you’d like to book a demonstration of the Air XS from Australia, you can do so here.

        For the UK or the rest of the world just get in touch using the contact form below.


          Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor recognised as ‘Highly Commended’ at the BSiF Awards 2022

          The world’s first real-time respirable crystalline silica (RCS) monitor, the Air XS Silica Monitor from Trolex, has been determined as ‘Highly Commended’ by the British Safety Industry Federation (BSiF) at their 2022 awards ceremony.

          The Air XS Silica Monitor was recognised in the ‘Product Innovation’ category, for its improvement towards RCS detection, as an innovative product.

          In esteemed company

          The BSiF Awards, in association with the Safety and Health Excellence Awards, took place on Wednesday 6 April 2022 at The Vox, NEC, Birmingham.

          Hosted by renowned actor and comedian Hugh Dennis, the awards recognised some of the most prestigious and respected companies within the health and safety industry across Britain.

          Three awards were presented by the BSiF to companies who are excelling in the health and safety industry; these awards were the Customer Services Awards, the Safety Solution Award and the Product Innovation Award, the latter of which the Air XS was entered in to.

          A world-first innovative product

          The ‘Product Innovation’ category was looking for products which are making a difference and finding new solutions to improving health and safety across a variety of industries and environments in Britain.

          Focusing on new and innovative technology used in developing these nominated products, this category was an opportunity for us to highlight the effect which real-time silica monitoring will have on the improving health and safety in specific markets.

          Therefore, not only did being the world’s first real-time RCS monitor on the market help us receive ‘Highly Commended’ recognition, but also the innovation and development of the product itself.

          Using optical refraction technology developed in house by our very own engineering team and produced with the support of the Centre for Work Health and Safety, it demonstrated the effort put in and the belief everyone connected to this product has on its potential.

          ‘Highly Commended’ recognition

          Our Managing Director, Steve Holland, said, “it was a privilege to stand up on behalf of Trolex at such an important event and this award is absolutely deserving to everyone here.” This award has highlighted the amount of work gone into this innovative product and the potential it has on the industry as a whole.

          “There is still lots of work ahead, but this undoubtedly begins a new era of growth, opportunity and excitement for the business” added Steve.

          The results of the BSiF Awards come at an exciting time, as Trolex were also announced as a finalist of the Better Society Awards for the Air XS Silica Monitor, in the ‘Tech for Good’ category, just weeks after winning the ‘Best Technology Award’ at The International Surface Event.

          The world’s first real-time RCS monitor

           The Air XS Silica Monitor has the potential to save millions of lives.

           To learn more about the world’s first real-time RCS monitor, book your demonstrations now or speak to one of experts today using the contact form below.

            The battle against silicosis: This is personal

            By Glyn Pierce-Jones – CEO of Trolex.


            What might seem like a nine-year journey to develop the Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor actually goes back 150 years. Our new silica detection technology has surprising origins… 

            It starts at a time when miners had next to no protection, especially from silica dust, and to a place that ‘roofed the world.’ Snowdonia’s beautiful, bleak, Blaenau Ffestiniog.

            UNESCO Heritage status

            Recently awarded UNESCO heritage status, it was here that my grandfathers, great grandfathers, uncles, and cousins all worked, mining slate. 

            Arawn and Ieuan. Dai and Dewi. Merfyn and Maldwyn.

            And it’s here that many of them died, often as young as in their 40s, from silicosis.

            No health and safety. No silica detection and prevention. No chance.

            Personal and poignant

            It makes the work we do at Trolex all the more personal and all the more poignant.

            And it’s a major part of the reason we’ve worked so hard to solve the age-old problem of silica detection. 

            So that modern-day miners and quarry workers – in fact, anyone who might come into contact with silica in their working lives – from construction workers to plasterers, factory workers and stonemasons – will never have to suffer the same fate as my forefathers.

            New hope

            And all it took was vision and ingenuity, optimism and grit, and endless trips to the bank manager. And despite being told we’d never do it – we’ve done it.

            New technology that offers new hope to people who previously had no hope of avoiding an unnecessary, painful and premature end to their lives.

            It’s called the Trolex Air XS Silica Monitor

            And it’s astonishing.

            The world’s first silica detection technology saving lives all over the world – made of legends.

            As they used to say in the back bar at the Miners Inn in Blaenau…

            Dyma i chi fechgyn!*

            Drop me a line and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Air XS Silica Monitor and the many ways it can benefit your staff and your business.

            *Here’s to you, boys!

              Bringing solutions to fraud within the construction industry

              Fraud within the construction industry is nothing new. In fact, it’s getting worse.

              After news emerged of two construction skills’ test administrators being jailed for fraud, the evidence suggests that it’s too easy to cut corners in construction health and safety.

              A growing problem for the construction industry

              In a 2019 report by Construction News, it was found that the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) were to review 2,500 safety tests after several arrests were made for fraudulent construction testing.

              Further reports in November 2020 stated that a ‘crackdown on fraud in construction testing’ would be taking place to prevent further crimes. It looked as though fraudulent activity within construction was being treated with the severity it deserved.

              However, recent news shows that cases of fraud are still occurring frequently. Most notably, in late-February of this year, two construction skills test administrators were jailed for 28 months after pleading guilty to falsifying CITB health and safety checks for personal profit.

              The pair from Knutsford, Cheshire, were said to be profiting around £37,700 by creating fake health and safety tests and supplying fake Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards to workers, almost three years after the CITB first announced their review.

              Adam Kingsgate, Assistant Director of Fraud Investigation Service for the HRMC, affirmed in 2020 that the “HMRC is committed to taking action on all those who steal from the public purse.

              This highlights that whilst action is being taken to reprimand fraud within the construction industry, the problem is not being stopped at its root, which, in turn, means there are potentially thousands of workers exposed to the risk of poor health and safety training.

              Is the problem being taken seriously?

              In the most recent case in Knutsford, it is estimated that 1,305 fake CSCS cards dating back to January 2020 had been revoked. That’s 1,305 incidents in which construction workers are exposed to a variety of health and safety risks they haven’t properly been prepared for.

              The requirements for an approved training organisation’s documentation from the CTID, which certifies the legitimacy for testing, was last revised in February 2020, meaning the application process hasn’t been tightened or changed since the HMRC’s promise in November 2020.

              This unfortunately shows that although there are some guidelines in place, which try to prevent fraud from occurring, priority for workers health and safety does not seem to be treated as important as they say it should be, in reality.

              If fraudsters are able to bypass the regulations currently in place, then it is likely that these events will continue.

              So, what can be done to stop this?

              Workplace health and safety that can’t be cheated…

              There’s a simple way to improve matters. Reliable and accurate health and safety testing that cannot be cheated.

              Although in this instance the issue lies within testing, it is evident the overall problem runs deeper throughout the whole construction industry, and this is a worry when people’s lives are potentially at stake.

              Making health and safety testing and equipment accurate, reliable, safe and trustworthy is difficult to achieve, especially when policies do not help to drive home this message.

              We have found this countless times in our research and development for particulate monitoring and silica dust in particular over the last eight years.

              Current particulate monitoring policies rely on collecting, for example, silica particulates on a filter, then transporting this to a lab to analyse. How do you know that all the silica dust collected stays on the filter for an accurate result? You don’t unfortunately.

              The standard guidelines state, ‘The best method of transportation is by using a reliable person who is aware of the need for care.’, yet this is something that can’t be measured.

              However, now, Trolex has the technology to provide on-site, digital, real-time respirable crystalline silica (RCS) monitoring with our new product, the Air XS Silica Monitor, taking numerous inaccuracies like this out of the equation providing health and safety provisions which cannot be cheated.

              Health and safety should never be about guess-work, or inaccurate methods of measurements, nor should it be put second best to profitability or personal gain.

              Trolex real-time particulate monitors

              It’s time to get real on dust monitoring with the Air XD Dust Monitor and the XD One Personal Dust Monitor, and launching next month, the Air XS Silica Monitor.

                Trolex has developed a real-time silica monitor. But what have jeans got to do with it? 

                The short answer is a lot – but read on to find out why.

                We are talking here about the trendy, sometimes skinny, but definitely distressed, smooth and comfortable jeans that are likely to be worn by every third student in any college or university campus in the UK, Australia or the US today.

                The problem

                The process of sandblasting is a simple one, a compressor, a hose and basic sand is all that is needed to blast over the denim and create a smooth, distressed look. This can be performed manually, or mechanically, but is the same process in either application.

                The problem lies with the type of sand used.

                In regulated counties, the use of abrasives that contain more than 1% free silica has long since been banned, as whilst sandblasting clothes is a relatively new practice, sandblasting has been used commonly in the mining and building industries for several decades in western societies. Harmful silica dust with high levels of Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) – the dangerous particulates that cause Silicosis – was identified relatively early in these industries, and as such, the UK banned the use of silica sand being used in sandblasting back in 1950. The European Economic Community banned its use in 1966, the US in 1974, and Sweden later still in 1992.

                Unregulated countries such as Turkey, Syria, Bangladesh, Mexico, India and Indonesia were not subject to these restrictions, so clothing manufacturers moved to these and other countries in South East Asia and North Africa, in order to continue this, and other cheap, effective, but dangerous practices.

                Silvana Cappuccio, a health and safety expert at the International Textile Garment & Leather Workers’ Federation, states that production “tends to move to regions where labour is cheap and legislation is weaker.


                The scale of the problem

                A four-year medical follow up study on denim sandblasters across Turkey, Brazil, China and Japan from 2007 to 2011 made some bleak observations:

                • Denim sandblasters are at a high risk of silicosis.
                • Patients with silicosis because of denim sandblasting exhibit rapid disease progression,
                  and many of the complications associated with silicosis, including death, appear to
                  be unavoidable.
                • Among the 145 former sandblasters studied in 2007, 83 were re-assessed in 2011.
                  In the four-year follow-up period, nine (6.2%) had died at a mean age of 24 years.
                • Of the 74 living sandblasters available for re-examination, the prevalence of silicosis
                  increased from 55.4% to 95.9%, regardless of age, gender or whether they were smokers.
                • The affect was most prominent in workers that slept within the workplace.

                Perhaps the most shocking observation was the final conclusion to the study, which stated outright: “almost all former denim sandblasters may develop silicosis, despite short exposures and latency.”

                This study, labelled silicosis as ‘inevitable’ in former sandblasters, which really does expose the problem as a truly global issue.

                What has been done about it?

                Banning the use of silica-sand, and sandblasting jeans in general has been enforced in most countries now, following a very damning report by a doctor in Turkey in 2004. The report reached the Turkish government who eventually banned the process five years later in 2009. From this, a Clean Clothing movement began, led by the Fair Trade Center that investigated 17 clothing brands in 2010, leading to all 17 brands banning the sandblasting of denim by 2011, and a world awareness with the BBC and various ethical clothing enthusiasts getting on board with the Clean Clothes Campaign, that has not only gone viral but has got the attention of a global audience.

                As late as 2019 however, there has been some evidence that China is still sandblasting jeans illegally far down the supply chain, hidden from the end buyer. So, the bottom line is, you have no REAL way of knowing if the faded, comfortable, low-cost jeans we buy off the shelf today in any high-street store not part of the 2010 study, has been subject to an ethical manufacturing process.

                The uncomfortable truth maybe that we have helped a foreign worker contract silicosis – however indirectly.

                What has all this got to do with Trolex?

                Eradicating silica dust from unsafe sandblasting practices in jeans manufacturing, is a good first step, but silica dust is still unavoidable in other industries.

                Quarrying, construction and the manufacturing of stone, bricks and most mining industries will always release some silica dust particulates in the air, and the efforts have to be on the controls that need to be put in place to avoid workers ingesting respirable crystalline silica (RCS), which leads to silicosis.

                The UK, US and Australia are making real headway in tackling this problem, but the main issue that has emerged throughout all the research, has been the lack of any real-time data.

                Monitoring silica dust, it not an easy process, and this is why Trolex have spent the last eight years developing a way to do just this, in real time, to protect the workers on site every day, and throughout the day. New laser technology has been developed in the Air XS, that will soon be available to monitor RCS in this way. Providing more information about where silica is, when and how much is produced, which then gives employers the opportunity to protect their staff clearly, using controls such as better ventilation and PPE usage where it’s needed most on site. This knowledge undoubtedly makes a difference, and ultimately helps the global vision and mission to prevent RCS overexposure for good, saving countless lives.

                Jeans, it seems, have helped to open up the global conversation and war on silicosis, so they really do have a great deal to do with silica, and in turn, Trolex.

                To find out more about what we are doing about silica, sign up our early adopters’ mailing list today.