Masons and other stone workers are suddenly falling ill across the Southwest with silicosis and severe respiratory diseases. The dust created by their work contains silica, and it’s making them sick. The artificial or engineered stone used to make countertops has been identified as a key source of the deadly mineral.
Lung Damage and Deaths Among Makers of Popular Kitchen Countertops
Thousands of workers in the United States who create countertops out of what’s known as “engineered stone” may be inhaling dangerous amounts of lung-damaging silica dust. Engineered stone contains 90% silica mineral, according to Dr. Amy Heinzerling of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Engineered stone took off as a popular option for countertops about 10 years ago. It is one of the most common choices for kitchens and bathrooms today. Imports of the material rose about 800% from 2010 to 2018.
Workers can be exposed to silica dust when they cut, grind, or polish stone products. Silica dust triggers inflammation in the lungs and can progress to silicosis, an incurable lung disease. Late last year, a CDC report identified a cluster of engineered stone workers diagnosed with silicosis. The workers were from four states in the Southwest.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied the incidence of silicosis in engineered stone workers between 2017 and 2019. The study confirms that people working with engineered stone are at risk of silicosis. Researchers identified 18 countertop fabrication workers diagnosed with silicosis across California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington. Two of the cases were fatal. The report warns of the serious health hazard posed by the mineral, and the significant number of workers who are at risk. The CDC calls for additional efforts to reduce exposure to silica and improved disease surveillance.
Silicosis can develop within a few weeks to even decades after exposure, according to the American Lung Association. It calls silicosis “a major occupational lung disease,” but also says it is completely preventable. By law, your employer must protect you from exposure to too much silica dust. The American Lung Association created a helpful video that explains what you need to know about silica and how to protect yourself from silicosis. They recommend the following steps to protect your lung health:
- Wet down or use a HEPA vacuum system to reduce dust.
- Use sweeping powder before sweeping up dust ONLY if wet methods, HEPA vacuuming, or wet sweeping are not feasible, and it can be demonstrated through air sampling that the sweeping powder is more effective in controlling silica dust.
- Wear a properly and professionally fitted respirator.
How We Help Silicosis Victims
Seek justice with the help of our experienced attorneys. Our Dallas, Texas silicosis law firm has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for dangerous products. If you or a loved one were exposed to silica dust from engineered stone or suffer from silicosis, we can help.