Sandblasting is a notoriously hazardous occupation due to the nature of highly pressurized crystalline silica. When silica sand is used as an abrasive, the particles are forcefully ejected using pressurized air or steam. This process creates dust, which can result in sandblasters inhaling silica particles, and subsequently, developing sandblasting silicosis.
Silicosis is an incurable lung disease caused by silica particles lodging themselves into the tissue in the lungs. When particles enter the lungs, the tissue reacts, forming scarring or nodules around the particles. This creates difficulty breathing, and over time the lungs suffer extreme damage. Sandblasting silicosis also increases the risk of developing other lung diseases, such as tuberculosis and lung cancer.
Who is At Risk for Sandblasting Silicosis?
The hazards of silica sand as an abrasive have been a topic of discussion worldwide for many years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 100,000 sandblasters are at risk for developing silicosis. Researchers further estimate that as many as 5.4 percent of sandblasters develop silicosis or silicosis and tuberculosis together.
Sadly, despite being a known hazard, many sandblasters do not have proper training, warnings or equippment to prevent exposure to silica dust. The workers most at risk for sandblasting silicosis include:
- Workers who use sandblasting to remove rust or paint from metal, ships, buildings, or bridges.
- Workers who clean sand or irregularities from foundry castings.
- Individuals who use sandblasting to etch or carve tombstones or headstones or glass.
- Artisans who use sandblasting to frost, etch, or carve.
Sandblasting is particularly hazardous because the initial fracturing of silica particles tends to create dust with higher concentrations of crystalline silica. This highly concentrated dust can create a more severe or immediate lung reaction.
Can Silicosis Be Prevented?
Silicosis is a preventable disease. Sadly, many people who suffer exposure to harmful silica dust do not realize the danger. Others are exposed due to poor safety in their work environments, or not being provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) like a respirator.
Due to the known risks of silica dust exposure, some countries have banned use of silica sand as an abrasive. In the U.S., silica sand is not banned, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have established guidelines and exposure limits.
That means that employers must monitor work environments to ensure that silica dust readings do not exceed a certain level. If silica levels are higher than the permissible limit, then employers must take steps to ensure compliance. Employers must also make sure that employees have PPE when silica dust is present in the air.
To prevent sandblasting silicosis, it is also recommended that employers consider the following lines of defense:
- Substitute silica sand for less hazardous abrasives, such as plastic beads, sodium bicarbonate, or ground walnut shells.
- Isolate and contain silica dust by using blasting cabinets, curtains, or barriers.
- Ventilate areas where silica dust may be airborne. Use systems that collect dust and remove particles from the air.
Taking measures to eliminate silica dust from work environments is one of the best ways to prevent sandblasting silicosis.
Get Help with Your Sandblasting Silicosis Claim
If you have worked as a sandblaster, or have used silica sand as an abrasive in the course of your occupation, you may be at risk for developing silicosis. It is very important to monitor your health and tell your doctor about any symptoms that may indicate a lung condition or disease.
If you have worked in sandblasting, or in the maritime or construction industries, you may have already have a diagnosis of silicosis. Furthermore, you may be currently experiencing the impact of the disease. If so, the silicosis lawyer at AkinMears, L.L.P. wants to speak with you. You may have a silicosis claim and could qualify for compensation. Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 888-357-8191.