The American Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strengthened the safety precautions for workers who are exposed to respirable crystalline silica. According to the new regulations that come into force on June 23, 2016, the maximum workplace concentration may not exceed 50 micrograms per cubic meter. The previous standard was set at 100 micrograms. At the same time, the atmospheric pollution is to be monitored and work in surroundings with silica dust is to be medically monitored better.
The American Thoracic Society (ATS) welcomed the lowering of the limit. Workers exposed to the dust have a higher risk of becoming ill from silicosis and other respiratory and lung diseases. ATS believes that the new measures will lower the risk.
The regulation affects companies in the most varied of industries. Silica dust is released when processing quartz or other stone.
In 2002, the Committee on Hazardous Substances (Ausschuss für Gefahrstoffe, AGS) in Germany classified work with silica dust as carcinogenic, but not crystalline silica itself, and included such work in the German Technical Regulations for Hazardous Substances (TRGS 906). In 2015, the AGS once again evaluated the potential carcinogenicity of silica dust and confirmed the existence of a threshold value under which there is no danger of potential development of cancer. Based on diverging toxicological and epidemiological findings so far, it has been impossible to reach consensus on the exposure that initiates chronic inflammation. You can find more information in a brochure published in October 2015 by the Federation of German Industries (German only).
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