When a building is undergoing construction, a lot of dust tends to be kicked up. While some of the dust is harmless, the dust could also contain silica, which is a common mineral that is found in soil, sand, granite, rock, concrete and several other materials. While usually harmless, during construction, the dust that is produced can actually be very harmful to the respiratory systems of those in the area.
Why Crystalline Silica is Dangerous
Crystalline silica is a human lung carcinogen. It is capable of causing serious lung disease and can also cause lung cancer. Because silica only requires a small amount of contamination to cause health problems, it is considered a serious health hazard. Only a few months of exposure is enough for someone to suffer from a disease. The dust that enters the lungs can cause scar tissue and makes it difficult for the lungs to take in oxygen. Not only is there no cure for this, but it's often fatal.
Activities That Increase Exposure
Workers are exposed to silica by millions all over the world. There are various construction activities that tend to lead to silica becoming a problem, including tunneling, stonecutting, foundry work, abrasive blasting, and rock drilling. The good news is that those who do not work in construction will usually not have to worry about silica unless they live near a construction site and are regularly breathing in silica dust.
The Importance of Respirators
Workers are safer from silica when they wear respirators. However, it's essential that they undergo a respirator fit test. The fit test determines the ability of the respirator to keep the worker's lungs separated from the ambient air that contains silica dust. The mask must be placed flush against the face without any gaps. The fit needs to be tested before the worker enters the area where silica dust is present or the respirator might not be effective enough.
The mask size and shape need to be suitable for the worker who will be wearing it. One way to test the respirator is to determine if the individual wearing the respirator is able to smell something, such as bananas. However, quantitative methods such as aerosol tests are more effective.
The Importance of Designated Substance Surveys
You may be required to perform a designated substance survey if your building contains silica, asbestos, or other harmful substances. Fortunately, there are many residential designated substance survey services available.