Controlling air pollution and the implications on global respiratory health

‘PM’ or particulate matter, also known as particle pollution is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. 

It’s estimated that air pollution is linked to 43,000 deaths per year in the UK. Worldwide, at least 7 million people die each year from exposure to air pollution, with 91% of the worldwide population living in locations where the air quality exceeded the World Health Organisations (WHO) air pollution guidelines.

These guidelines state that that annual average concentrations of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 µg/m3 and PM10 should not exceed 15 µg/m3 (both for 24-hour periods). According to the WHO, ‘fine particulate matter at PM2.5 can penetrate through the lungs and further enter the body through the blood stream, affecting all major organs’. Exposure to dust at PM2.5 can cause serious disease to the respiratory system, such as lung cancer and COPD, and also can effect cardiovascular diseases, such as a stroke.

The image below demonstrates PM2.5 and PM10 size in comparison to a single human hair and a grain of sand.

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the UK government ministerial department for environment protection, have also highlighted the severity of exposure to air pollution. This growing concern for the UK government estimated in 2010 that the cost of health impacts of air pollution was likely to exceed estimates of £8bn to £20bn.

Although between 2005 and 2022, the UK’s PM2.5 emissions decreased by 41%, emission levels have been relatively steady with small annual fluctuations in the last decade. Industrial combustion is a major source of PM emissions, as well as emissions from industrial production also playing a major part, which can be linked to heavy-dust industry where hazardous particulates can become airborne. Despite some reductions in PM emissions, the threat still very much remains.

REAL-TIME DUST MONITORING

A solution to this is real-time dust monitoring. Real-time particulate monitoring allows people in heavy dust loading environments, including industrial applications, to not only understand, but alert them instantaneously when they are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution. For example, our AIR XD Dust Monitor can alert people in real-time when legislative levels of µg/m3 are breached, over a time-weighted average (TWA) 8-hour period, for both PM2.5 and PM10.

This technology not only offers a simple solution to individuals at high risk of exposure to air pollution by providing instant alerts, but also can help to prevent exposure in the future, as at-risk individuals can learn exactly when and where exposure to air pollution is highest and will likely occur. Thanks to real-time monitoring, both in the UK and Worldwide, we can reduce exposure to air pollution.

Real-time, fixed area monitoring

Speak with an expert today about how our real-time fixed, portable and personal dust monitors can help improve your safety processes today.

Global efforts to combat silica dust exposure in the workplace

It’s estimated that over 40 million people worldwide are exposed to silica dust in the workplace. Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) contributes to one of the leading causes of death in the workplace, alongside other lung related illnesses. Due to this some of the industry’s most influential countries worldwide are making significant changes to regulations regarding silica exposure in the workplace. 

In December 2023, Australia became the first country in the world to ban engineered stone due to rising cases of silicosis. From 1st July 2024, all use of engineered stone in Australia will be prohibited to protect workers from exposure to RCS in the workplace. Engineered stone is a manufactured material made from combining quartz or granite aggregates with resins and pigment and is a common material used in stone bench tops, often found in kitchens and bathrooms. It’s production often results in airborne RCS, leading to significant health risks to those working with it. 

With reports that over half a million Australians are exposed to fine silica dust through stonemasonry and construction, figures suggest 103,000 of these workers are likely to be diagnosed with silicosis. The production and manufacturing of stone bench tops is a significant contributor to these statistics. The ban on engineered stone across the entirety of Australia is a step in the right direction to reduce the number of workers exposed to RCS and silicosis diagnosis in the future. 

This ruling in Australia looks to have a set a precedent in influencing other countries to do the same. In May 2024, the first cases of silicosis linked to artificial stone countertops in the UK were reported, leading to calls for the material to be banned.

An estimated 600,000 workers are exposed to silica in the UK each year, and in Europe as a whole, 81% of those exposed are employed in construction or in manufacturing products used in the industry. After Australia became the first country worldwide to ban engineered stone in December 2023, UK kitchen company Herringbone announced they would also ban the sale of high-silica quartz worktop due to the risks posed to stonemasons. 

Since speaking with their stonemasons about the risk of high quartz in engineered stone, Herringbone made the decision to become the first company in the UK to phase out the sale and production of engineered stone, as well as creating a petition to have the product completely banned in the UK, like in Australia. 

 

In the US, the Biden administration has agreed to limit workers exposure to silica dust in mining, particularly when drilling for coal, ore and completing other mining operations. In April 2024, a ruling was announced to reduce the allowable silica dust levels in mining operations to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, with an action level at 25 micrograms, for an eight-hour workday. 

The ruling will also update any respiratory protection standards for mining workers and in addition to silica dust, will also apply to diesel particulate matter and asbestos. The hope is that this will begin to reduce an estimated 1,067 deaths and 3,746 silica related illnesses in mining industries in the US and begin to make mining safer from the risk of RCS for the 55,000 American coal miners across the nation. The rule will come into action one year after its publication in April 2024. 

With significant action being taken across major industries worldwide as of mid-2024 and onwards, protection for workers against respirable crystalline silica is becoming more of a high priority in workplaces. With banning of products known to produce dangerous levels of RCS, and with rule changes to limit exposure, workers short- and long-term lung health is becoming better protected than ever. 

Real-time silica dust monitoring

Want to learn more about real-time monitoring for RCS in the workplace?

Connected partner solutions to elevate your personal,
real-time dust monitoring

The connected XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor and Reactec cloud-based analytics platform has arrived. The Reactec Analytics platform brings exposure data from the XD1+ to life by delivering real-time updates from individual workers and tracking respirable data to determine where the highest concentration of harmful dust exists in your workplace.

With no filters, pumps, tubes, or replaceable parts, the XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor is one of the most compact, lightweight, and easy-to-use real-time personal dust monitors on the market. For such an accurate and reliable unit, it is also essential to be able to access and easily understand the data which the XD1+ is picking up, minute by minute.

Reactec’s cloud-based analytics platform brings XD1+ exposure data to life by delivering real-time updates from individual workers to remote supervisors, whilst tracking respirable data, to determine where the highest concentration of dust exists in your workplace.

With the support of Reactec’s ecosystem, the XD1+ is transformed into a connected, personalised dust monitoring device that shares invaluable data insight to key stakeholders and figureheads. The XD1+ is integrated into the Reactec ecosystem using the Reactec RASOR device as an IoT Gateway to Reactec’s powerful Analytics software.

By simply connecting your XD1+ unit to the Reactec Analytics platform you are able to:

  • Remove guesswork with accurate and real-time dust monitoring.
  • Personalise dust monitoring against specific workers with the Reactec RASOR device.
  • Identify the source and location of exposure and prioritise high risk areas.
  • GDPR compliant management of personal risk data.
  • Review tailored risk reports, add interventions and assess control measures.
  • Manage multiple health risks (dust, noise, vibration, proximity hazards) on a single platform.

 

If you want to find out more about how XD1+ can help keep your workers safe from harmful dust in the workplace, get in touch today to speak to one of our experts.

 

You may also be interested in

Image of AIR XD Dust Monitor
AIR XD Dust Monitor

Image of AIR XS Silica Monitor
AIR XS Silica Monitor

Image of Software
Software

Image of Air X Transportable Pack
Air X Transportable Pack

AIR XS Silica Monitor: Not just another particle counter

Launched in 2022, the AIR XS Silica Monitor isn’t like other silica monitors on the market. If you’ve been in the Health and Safety space, it’s likely you’ll know about Optical Particle Counter (OPC), also known as “light-scattering”; but our patented AIR XS isn’t just another OPC.

Unlike traditional Optical Particle Counters (OPCs) that rely on light scattering and interruptions to deduce particle size and quantity, the patented Optical Refraction Technology (ORT) used in the AIR XS shines a laser through each particle, capturing its refraction on multiple sensors.

In our blog below, we reference Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon to explain one way to how ORT works. It’s not exact by any means but the refraction of the light coming out of the prism shows an example of how light refracts, similar to a crystalline particle.

Get in touch

If you’d like a more in-depth look at how real-time data can contribute to reducing instances of occupational silicosis, then be sure to check out check out our white paper: How real-time data could be the beginning of the end for occupational silicosis.

Otherwise, if you operate in challenging environments where you know RCS is present, and want to protect your workforce, then you can get in touch to request a demonstration with one of our experts or find a local approved distributor.

TROLEX INSPIRES NEW APPG PERSPECTIVE ON RESPIRATORY HEALTH

In 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Respiratory Health (APPG) issued the report “Silica, the next asbestos?”, which examined the disproportionate effect of silica dust to construction workers’ lives. 

Since the publication of that report, the APPG were contacted by a number of experts on the subject matter, who highlighted the advances in risk reduction and the particularly promising rise of real-time dust and silica monitoring technology. 

“Trolex believe that the most obvious and immediate benefit of real-time monitoring is in improving safety for those potentially exposed to silica in the workplace.” 

The new, revised report, titled “Improving Silicosis Outcomes in the UK” also explored these new silicosis prevention strategies, including some input from Trolex on the subject matter. From this, the APPG raised several clinical and regulatory recommendations to protect workers from the dangers of occupational silicosis going forward. 

“We recommend that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) assesses and determines the data and technology needed to allow the UK to reduce the WEL for work with silica to 0.05mg/m3.” 

The recommendations from the APPG’s report indicate a number of changes need to be made in order to improve safety across all UK industries which use silica. These recommendations focus on both ways to prevent exposure to dangerous Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) in the workplace, including improvements in education, real-time monitoring and reducing exposure limits, as well as improving health and support for those who currently suffer with silicosis. 

“We recommend that the HSE actively considers and consults with industry on the positions of real-time monitoring to complement the hierarchy of control.” 

OCCUPATIONAL SILICOSIS IN THE STONE INDUSTRY

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

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

A scientific report from nature.com 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 lung diseases in the workplace, especially when exposure to harmful 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, is composed of silica dust. 

Engineered stone vs Natural stone

The purpose of the study from nature.com was to see, in relation to RCS, 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, silica 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%. By 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, in turn causing more damage. Contrastingly, 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 silica dust emissions from engineered stones had a much higher concentration of quartz and cristobalite, therefore having a higher silica content and subsequently 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 occupational 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 harmful silica dust 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.  

Prevention is the best cure.

We’ve developed the world’s first real-time silica monitor, the AIR XS Silica Monitor, and, along with other health and safety controls, this is one of the tools that will help to prevent occupational silicosis for those exposed to harmful silica dust in the workplace. 

If you’d like to learn more about our AIR XS, and specifically how it can help your safety processes to keep your workers safe from fatal occupational lung diseases, then complete the get in touch to arrange a call with one of our experts today. 

“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 dust should be viewed the same way as asbestos.

While he became aware of the dangers of silica dust 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 dust 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 occupational silicosis, which is the most common chronic lung disease in the world.

He continued, “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 respirable crystalline silica (RCS) 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 dust including silica in the workplace, opposed to just 142 recorded due to workplace accidents between 2020/2021. What’s more, there are an estimated 50,000 workers worldwide exposed to silica dust.

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 occupational silicosis have been estimated to cost employers in the UK construction industry over £1 million per year.

In order to raise awareness and protect construction workers from this entirely preventable disease, Trolex have launched the AIR XS Silica Monitor, the world’s first real-time silica monitor, which can provide real-time data of dangerous silica dust particles workers are exposed to across any given day.

Requiring no complicated set-up and only five minutes of maintenance a month, the AIR XS 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.

Get in touch today using the contact form below to speak to one of our experts about how the Trolex AIR XS can help protect workers from occupational silicosis.

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’ released in March 2020?

In it, it states:

“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.”

Real time. Accurate. Affordable. 

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.

Silica 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 Dust Monitor and XD One Portable Dust Monitor, XD1+ 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 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). 

Image of AIR XS Silica Monitor
AIR XS Silica Monitor

Image of AIR XD Dust Monitor
AIR XD Dust Monitor

Image of XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor
XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor

Image of XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor
XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor

Book your demonstration today.

Get in touch today to request a demonstration with one of our experts, or find a local distributor to arrange a demonstration with them.

 

AIR XS Silica Monitor launches in New South Wales

After nine years in development, 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 silica monitor.

As the cases of occupational silicosis caused by the inhalation of silica dust continue 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.

The importance real-time silica monitoring

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

The AIR XS is a major technological advancement in monitoring for silica dust globally, 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 silica dust in the workplace.

The rebate scheme means that all NSW businesses are eligible for $1,000 rebate refund at time of purchase of each AIR XS unit, as well as potential small businesses in the area.

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 = is going to be a huge success’.

The launch of the AIR XS in NSW coincided with our UK launch at the Health and Safety Event at the NEC in Birmingham.

The world’s first real-time silica monitor was also on show at Coverings 2022 Stone and Tile trade event at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in Nevada, USA.

Start monitoring for silica dust today

If you’re located in Australia, and wish to book a demonstration of the AIR XS Silica Monitor,  you can do so directly with AES.

However, if you’re in the UK or the rest of the world and want to learn more about the AIR XS, then you can get in touch with one of our experts today.

 

World-first technology, AIR XS, receives second award at the BSiF Awards 2022

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

With rising cases of occupational silicosis caused by the inhalation of silica dust, AIR XS was recognised in the ‘Product Innovation’ category, for its improvement towards detecting respirable crystalline silica (RCS), as a truly 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 had entered.

A world-first innovative product

The ‘Product Innovation’ category focuses on products that make a difference, and find 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 improving health and safety in specific markets.

Therefore, not only did being the world’s first real-time silica dust 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 engineering team and produced with the support of the Centre for Work Health and Safety, the AIR XS 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, claimed, “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, 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

Real-time silica monitoring technology has the potential to save protect workers from high exposure to respirable crystalline silica has the potential to save millions of lives.

 Get in touch with one of our experts today to learn more about the AIR XS Silica Monitor.