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 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 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 nature.com 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. 







    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.







      Silica isn’t the new asbestos

      It’s been said hundreds of times…

      Silica is the new asbestos.

      But what if it’s not? What if there’s really nothing new about silica in relation to asbestos?

      The link between the two is even closer than you may think.

      What really is asbestos?

      Most people know asbestos as the dangerous insulator used in construction, responsible for over 5,000 related disease-deaths per year, typically lung cancer and asbestosis.

      However, in its natural form, asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral.

      Put simply, silicate minerals make up asbestos fibres.

      Asbestos is actually just one of the many different forms of silicate materials, in the same way that silica is.

      The similarities between silica and asbestos are much closer than people are aware of.

      SO WHAT?

      There is a different attitude towards asbestos compared to silica.

      The dangers of exposure to asbestos are well documented.

      Exposure to asbestos can cause serious lung conditions, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. It is the number 1 cause of recorded work-related deaths in the world.

      Most people in the UK are aware of its dangers, particularly as asbestos was banned in 1999 for construction work in the UK.

      Yet despite all of this, very few people are aware of how dangerous exposure to silica dust is, despite the fact that asbestos fibres are made up of silicate materials, in the same way silica is.

      There are many more dangers relating to silica than people may be aware of.

      Let’s put this into perspective

      Imagine you are working on refurbishing your bathroom and from the grinding of the ceramic sink and a load of dust becomes airborne.

      If you were told that this airborne dust which you were inevitably inhaling was asbestos, you’d probably run a mile. Right?

      And who could blame you? A dust which is responsible for approximately 90,000 asbestos-related diseases per year. You’d want to get as far away from it as possible.

      Well, it’s likely that that dust in your bathroom would in fact be silica dust.

      A dust which made up of silicate materials in the same way asbestos fibres are. A dust which is just as lethal, if not more lethal, in comparison to asbestos dust.

      But because it isn’t known to people as being the same as asbestos, the dangers seem to be less of a concern to people.

      The issue is much wider than this…

      It’s time to get real and become aware of just how dangerous silica dust is.

      It is reported that, in crystalline form, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is responsible for the death of 600 people per year in Great Britain with 450 of those to workers in construction industry.

      The importance of the dangers of silica must be realised, especially with what is known about how dangerous asbestos is.

      Don’t let history repeat itself

      Asbestos is just as lethal as silica. The dangers are the same, yet we cannot afford for the results of silica exposure to be the same as what occurred with asbestos.

      Silica could be as lethal as asbestos, if not more so, with equally serious consequences.

      Being aware of the issue is the start, action must be taken to protect workers from this dangerous dust.

      We cannot afford to let history repeat itself.

      Let’s get real on silica.







        Staggering Lung Disease Statistics Prompt £5,000,000 Investment

        New studies from charity ‘Asthma and Lung UK’ (ALUK) found that lung disease deaths in the UK are the highest in Western Europe.

        The staggering statistics have prompted an expanded approach towards research and development of lung diseases from ALUK.

         

        Serious Statistics

        ALUK’s studies show that cases of lung disease related deaths in the UK have been rising in the past 20 years.

        It is reported that 500,000 people in the UK died from deaths relating to lung diseases over a seven-year period.

        In 2018 alone, 84,721 respiratory deaths were recorded in the UK.

        The charity has described the state of lung health in the UK as ‘shameful’, stating the need for improved research and development solutions to the problem.

        More than just numbers

        After it’s relaunch in February, ALUK established a new 5-year strategy upon the results of the study.

        Lung diseases are currently the third most common cause of death in the UK and it’s currently costing the NHS £9 billion every year.

        Despite this, lung related health care is receiving less than 2% of public funding.

        Dispelling the misconceptions

        The seriousness of lung problems in relation to other diseases is not taken as seriously.

        A predominant factor in the poor state of the nation’s lung health is that people believe lung conditions aren’t life-threatening. This is a major misconception.

        Through spreading awareness of how ‘shameful’ lung health is in the UK, this misconception can be dispelled.

        ALUK aim to reduce lung disease deaths by 20% by 2027. When making everyone aware of these staggering statistics, this can become a possibility.

        The end goal is to provide support for everyone effected by all forms of lung disease.

        Research and innovation as a solution

        ALUK’s solution to achieving this goal is through research and innovation.

        Their aim is to expand their research and innovation programme so that £5 million is being invested into relevant research each year.

        With the aim to develop at least three new self-management tools” for 2 million people suffering with lung diseases, ALUK want to make training programmes and essential advice easily accessible to those who need it.

        “By 2027, we will give 80% of people with lung conditions the opportunity to access our network of Breathe Easy support groups” states the ALUK Strategy to 2027.

        With this, the strain on public healthcare is minimised and individuals are able to monitor their personal health through digitalised platforms and shared networks.

        Looking to the future…

        The statistics right now make for harrowing reading and harsh truths.

        However, for ALUK, research and innovation is the solution for the future. By identifying the problem and acknowledging its severity and scale, goals can be achieved.

        Through effective research and innovation lung disease deaths can become a thing of the past, not just in the UK, but worldwide.

        Staggering Lung Disease Statistics Prompt £5,000,000 Investment

        New studies from charity ‘Asthma and Lung UK’ (ALUK) found that lung disease deaths in the UK are the highest in Western Europe.

        The staggering statistics have prompted an expanded approach towards research and development of lung diseases from ALUK.

         

        Inclusion culture

        Unfortunately, the Trolex model of an inclusion culture, isn’t practiced in every other ‘traditionally male’ company, which is why IWD and WICW campaigns globally to bring awareness to all women who are doing a great job, despite what that industry may be.

        No one can deny that stereotypes are still affecting society in the UK and in other western countries.

        A survey by CPB London ahead of IWD in 2022, found that,

        “39% of the 5- to 11-year-olds polled think that women should stay home and 38% agreed that men should go to work”.

        Breaking the bias

        The CPB began their “Imagine” nationwide campaign on IWD and this year’s theme is #BreakTheBias.

        This campaign has gained global appeal and invites people to imagine a person in a certain role, for example, ‘a doctor’ ‘a nurse’ ‘a plumber’ or ‘a CEO’, and then invites you to ask, is this a man or a woman?

        It creates a powerful message, especially when, in the CPB survey of 1000 children;

        60% thought that being a plumber or an electrician was a man’s job and almost half (46%) said that men always make better engineers.”

        A sobering thought that children still have this impression of certain roles in 2022.

        Research and innovation as a solution

        ALUK’s solution to achieving this goal is through research and innovation.

        Their aim is to expand their research and innovation programme so that £5 million is being invested into relevant research each year.

        With the aim to develop at least three new self-management tools” for 2 million people suffering with lung diseases, ALUK want to make training programmes and essential advice easily accessible to those who need it.

        “By 2027, we will give 80% of people with lung conditions the opportunity to access our network of Breathe Easy support groups” states the ALUK Strategy to 2027.

        With this, the strain on public healthcare is minimised and individuals are able to monitor their personal health through digitalised platforms and shared networks.

        A common goal for the construction industry

        Trolex are excited to be partnered with Active Environmental Solutions (AES), working together to protect workers from the dangerous and often irreversible consequences of dust inhalation.

        With AES’ specialist knowledge of occupational health and safety in Australian industries and Trolex’s leading safety technology, the opportunity of delivering solutions to prevent the dangers of dust inhalation for Australian workers, is not just a possibility, but now a reality.

        Offering the market new solutions

        AES want to spread awareness. And in the case of dust particulate detection, spreading awareness that new real-time technology to help prevent lethal respiratory diseases now exists.

        The opportunity to partner with Trolex was welcomed by AES, as it means that they can merge their expertise in Occupational Health with Trolex’s leading safety technology.

        This creates the best solutions to their respective industries.

        This simple message appealed to AES, and to Aleks Todorovic MSc, (OHP), Managing Director of AES’s team of Australian Occupational Safety experts at AES, as it aligned perfectly with the workers they seek to protect:

        Many businesses intuitively know the benefit of a broad threat detection – they just don’t know they know it, or perhaps how they go about implementing such devices – it’s our job to awaken that knowledge and show them there are new and effective dust detection technologies such as the Trolex Air XD and XD One.

        Important facts for important industries

        There are no arm twisting, or heavy sales techniques involved – just a clear and simple presentation of responding to the facts.

        Which is why Trolex and AES are working hard to provide further education to Australia’s mining, tunnelling, quarrying and construction industry, where workers are exposed to dangerous dust particulates.

        This common goal of providing specialist and expert knowledge of these industries is the drive needed to inevitably save lives and taking the dangers of dust seriously.

        Now, this collaboration will help to do exactly that.

        A needed change of approach

        The approach taken by businesses within these industries must now change. With new legislation on exposure to harmful particulates in Australia, new dust monitoring methods are needing to be implemented.

        Aleks said “As an occupational hygiene minded business we know only too well the devastating effects inhaling respirable dust can have on people’s long-term health.

        That’s why we are invested in the success and distribution of new and effective real-time dust detection technologies such as the Trolex Air XD and XD One. These are lifesaving technologies that need to be included in their safety thinking” stated Aleks further.

        By using Trolex’s advanced dust monitoring technology, small changes can have a huge impact.

        Looking towards the future

        The war on silica grows ever stronger by the day and more needs to be done.

        With the reduction in exposure limits coming into effect across Australia, particularly hard on respirable crystalline silica, real-time monitoring for RCS is a necessity, providing an instant alarm if you have an issue.

        Whilst the ability to retrospectively assess RCS levels in facilities is available to industries with an RCS problem, the ability to monitor for RCS in real-time is not.

        Trolex’s all new real-time silica monitor, the Air XS, allows for accurate and reliable results demonstrating compliance with legislation. Aleks commented on this world-first technology:

        We are really excited to be a part of this project to be able to detect silica in real-time. This will be the first monitor to have this capability and we’re proud to be distributing it throughout Australia. The project was produced with the support of the Centre for WHS in NSW proving just how important and potentially life-saving the new technology will be.”

        And with the talk of real-time, wearable silica monitoring devices a possibility in the future, of course it makes perfect sense for all industries to be increasingly focused on detection possibilities.

        Together, Trolex and AES are providing real solutions for real problems in Australia.

        Silica isn’t the new asbestos

        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.

        Don’t let history repeat itself

        Asbestos is just as lethal as silica. The dangers are the same, yet we cannot afford for the results of silica exposure to be the same as what occurred with asbestos.

        Silica could be as lethal as asbestos, if not more so, with equally serious consequences.

        Being aware of the issue is the start, action must be taken to protect workers from this dangerous dust.

        We cannot afford to let history repeat itself.

        Let’s get real on silica.

        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.