Using real-time silica monitoring technology to combat occupational silicosis

The AIR XS Silica Monitor leverages cutting-edge Optical Refraction Technology (ORT) to enhance workplace safety by providing real-time monitoring of respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Unlike traditional particle monitors, AIR XS distinguishes and measures RCS content, enabling immediate detection and response to harmful silica dust levels. This technology is crucial in combating occupational lung diseases such as silicosis, which affects millions of workers globally.

Current monitoring methods, like gravimetric sampling, are time-consuming and often deliver results too late to prevent exposure. In contrast, real-time silica monitoring offers immediate data, significantly reducing the risk of occupational silicosis by enabling prompt action to mitigate hazardous conditions. The importance of such real-time data is highlighted by cases like Joanna McNeill’s, who developed silicosis at the age of just 36. Her story, like many others underscores the necessity for continuous monitoring to protect workers from the threat of silicosis, regardless of their occupational environment.

Our real-time RCS monitor, AIR XS provides a real-time solution to this threat. Workers are not only alarmed and alerted when silica levels exceed legislative limits but can work to best practices by implementing AIR XS with the Hierarchy of Controls, supporting proactive measures to eliminate or minimise exposure to RCS. This move to real-time monitoring as a solution to the threat of silicosis has also been noticed by governing bodies, like the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Respiratory Health.

To learn more about how this real-time solution not only enhances worker safety but also streamlines business operations, click the link below to read the case study in full.

New testing proves efficacy of real-time silica monitor that could save thousands of lives

New test findings released, confirm the efficacy of a world-first real-time monitor for silica dust, which represents a revolution in the protection for workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust.  

As a leading workplace safety technology company, we have developed the AIR XS Silica Monitor, designed to protect workers against lung diseases such as silicosis by providing real-time readings of levels of crystalline silica in the air.  

We have recently commissioned a leading occupational hygiene and laboratory testing organisation to conduct independent testing of the AIR XS. The results show the AIR XS repeatedly provided consistent, accurate, real-time data throughout an eight-hour testing period.  

The testing demonstrates that AIR XS can improve worker safety by providing instant information to businesses and workers exposed to RCS, instead of having to wait up to four weeks to know their level of exposure to this killer dust, which is the current industry standard.  

While the Australian Government recently implemented a ban on engineered stone, commencing 1 July 2024, the process most synonymous with creating silica dust, Group CEO Glyn Pierce-Jones said this ban alone would not solve the current health crisis caused by RCS.  

“Silica dust is found in most building materials, so while banning engineered stone is a positive step, it’s not a holistic solution. The real issue facing the industry is the current archaic methods of testing for silica dust and the delay it causes in creating the safest possible workplace.” 

The AIR XS is already being used in Australia to monitor RCS levels in many industrial locations. 

Silica occurs naturally in soil, sand and granite; however, it is almost harmless in that state. Once those materials have been disturbed through construction or mining, silica dust is generated and can be inhaled into the lungs. This dust can cause silicosis, and other types of lung diseases and cancer, which are often irreversible and progressive. 

Recent research from The Lung Foundation showed an estimated 600,000 Australian workers and between 40-50 million workers worldwide are exposed to silica dust across a wide range of industries including quarrying, construction, tunnelling, mining and many manufacturing processes. 

The current approach to test for RCS is gravimetric sampling, the process requires collection, processing, and laboratory analysis of the sample, which is both time-consuming and costly for businesses. Direct-reading instruments offer businesses the ability to monitor employee safety on sites in real-time, eliminating the delays of weeks typically associated with potential RCS exposure. 

Mr Pierce-Jones emphasised the urgent need for enhanced safety measures for anyone who may be in contact with silica.   

“The current testing methodology for RCS only allows users to take an average reading over an eight-hour period and typically takes up to four weeks to produce a result,” Mr Pierce-Jones said. 

“Our AIR XS Silica Monitor was designed to provide an accurate reading with immediate results, letting workers know when their health is in danger and allowing employers to respond in the most efficient manner.” 

“These latest test results are another indicator of what we already knew at Trolex – that the AIR XS could be part of a desperately needed solution to an urgent health crisis.”  

Request the full testing report

You can request the full independent AIR XS testing report by following the link below.

Dust monitoring technology averts the threat of occupational lung diseases

The threat is averted with dust monitoring technology

As if the known dangers of exposure to harmful respirable dusts weren’t bad enough, new research is showing that long-term exposure to ambient air pollution is associated with a far wider range of diseases and highlights the importance of particulate monitoring.

Not only are 1.4 million people in the UK reporting ‘lung or breathing problems that were caused or made worse by work,’ and 12,000 people dying every year due to occupational lung diseases, evidence is mounting to show that airborne pollution also causes dementia, strokes and skin cancer.

The study, conducted in the USA and first published in the journal Stroke is titled “Long-Term Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter, Residential Proximity to Major Roads and Measures of Brain Structure“.

Examining the brains of more than 900 people over 60 years old, it revealed that long-term exposure to fine dust causes both brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) and leads to an increased risk of stroke and other disease.

Implications for business, too.

Not only is this news alarming for those who live near busy roads, it also draws attention to the added dangers faced by those working in conditions, and with materials, they may have previously thought safe. 

For example, welders, who, despite now using supposedly less dangerous materials and working in spaces where local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is employed, seem to be vulnerable to a far wider range of illnesses than previously thought.

As the report highlighted, even limited exposure of fine dust particles can lead to the heightened risk of cerebrovascular disease and cognitive impairment.

Benjamin Howell on the Fabricator.com says, ‘at the nanolevel, invisible to the human eye, the concentration of particulate matter can pose a great risk to welders. Studies show that welding fume particulates are mostly smaller than 0.1 micrometer, which makes nearly all welding fume particles respirable. They can penetrate deep into the alveolate region of the lungs during inhalation and remain firmly fixed there.’ 

It’s not all bad news though.

The first step towards change: Recognise you have a problem.

By revealing far greater and far wider reaching dangers than previously acknowledged, the new research means the important issue of how best to protect people from damaging dusts is getting the attention it deserves. 

The sheer weight of evidence amassing from the likes of The Journal of Cleaner Production, The British Medical Journal, and Harvard is forcing the hand of governments, regulatory bodies and employers. The necessary steps to protect not just their workers, but every one of us exposed to dangerous airborne pollutants, are being considered and taken. This includes controls, sensors and dust detectors, among other things.

A preemptive strike on harm with dust detectors.

What if a threat could be detected before it even became a threat? What if you could be alerted to the presence of even the smallest of damaging airborne dusts before they had the chance to damage health?

Leading H&S expert John Cairns says:

“The best thing is to detect the hazard before you’re exposed to the hazard. Before you’re exposed to the hazard or a high concentration. You can get the hell out of there, or with the way this new technology works you can set off ventilation systems to clear the area.

The whole ethos behind the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. I think the XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor is adding to that – it’s enhancing the safety system.”

Learn more about real-time dust monitoring

Real-time dust monitoring is an effective way at reducing the risk to workers in hazardous working environments. When combined with RPE, PPE and other equipment, the threats from dust and particle inhalation are reduced drastically. This has a big impact on worker health, morale and productivity.

Send us a message today to find out more about our work to help organisations like yours protect your people from the threat of damaging dust particles with sensors, dust detectors and systems tailored to your work environment.