The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) recently posted information on its Web site that alerts
roofing industry workers to the hazards of respirable silica. The
silica issue has come to the forefront in the roofing industry
after recent NIOSH testing showed worker exposures exceeded the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's)
permissible exposure limit during cutting of concrete and clay
roofing materials. (See "Understanding
a complex killer," August 2005 issue, page 36.)
The danger with regard to inhaling respirable crystalline silica
is a lung disease called silicosis. Respirable silica, the sand
portion of cut concrete or clay, enters the lungs and causes
inflammation and scarring. The result is reduced lung capacity.
Silicosis is an insidious disease—its effects may not become
apparent until years after an initial exposure to respirable
silica. The lung damage from silicosis is irreversible.
Silicosis is a problem usually associated with workers who do
sandblasting, rock drilling and building demolition. According to
NIOSH, each year, 200 workers die from the disease. Additionally,
NIOSH estimates more than 1 million workers are at risk for
developing silicosis each year.
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