Silicosis primary prevention

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aparna Vuppala, M.B.B.S. [2]


Silicosis is a preventable disease. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit for respirable silica of 10 mg/m3. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standard is a more stringent exposure limit of 0.05 mg/m3.

Primary Prevention

  • Prevention of silicosis is by identification of work-place activities with high concentrations of crystalline silica dust and elimination/control of the exposure. Early intervention with the control or cessation of adverse exposures may result in reversal of symptoms and airflow limitation.

NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL): NIOSH recommends that employers control exposure to respirable crystalline silica so that no worker is exposed to a time-weighted average concentration of silica greater than 50 µg/m3 of air, as determined by a full-shift sample for up to a 10-hour workday of a 40‑hour workweek OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL): The OSHA general industry PEL for quartz, the most common form of crystalline silica, is an 8-hour time-weighted average exposure to respirable dust. For pure quartz silica, the PEL is approximately equal to 100 µg/m3 of air

  • Health monitoring of workers with exposure to respirable crystalline quartz using chest radiographs and spirometry may assist in the early diagnosis and management.
  • Measures employed to limit the exposure to crystalline silica [1] :
  • Employers should provide appropriate controls for crystalline silica-containing dust.
  • Use all available engineering controls such as blasting cabinets, water sprays, and local exhaust ventilation.
  • Use less hazardous materials if available and can be used.
  • Be aware of the health effects of crystalline silica and that smoking adds to the damage.
  • Know about work operations where exposure to crystalline silica may occur.
  • Participate in any air monitoring or training programs offered by the employer.
  • Use type CE positive pressure abrasive blasting respirators for sandblasting.
  • Use unaltered respirators when required for protection against crystalline silica-containing dust. Workers who use tight-fitting respirators cannot have beards/mustaches which interfere with the respirator seal to the face.
  • Allocation of specific disposable or washable work clothes at the worksite; showering and changing into clean clothing before leaving the worksite.
  • Do not eat, drink, use tobacco products, or apply cosmetics in areas where there is dust containing crystalline silica.
  • Wash hands and face before eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics outside of the exposure area.


  1. "Worker Exposure to Silica during Countertop Manufacturing, Finishing and Installation" (PDF).

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