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Silica dust exposure can threaten a worker's health

New Jersey construction workers who are exposed to silica dust could face a significantly increased risk of serious illness and disease. According to one study, construction workers in bridge repair, chipping and crushing may be exposed to over 10 times the allowed limit of silica dust per federal OSHA workplace safety regulations. The study collected 51 samples of air in the personal breathing zones of construction workers involved in repairing bridges, demolishing buildings or crushing concrete.

Researchers also collected 33 samples from the surrounding area to determine if particles were affecting the environment as well. Some of the job sites had dust suppression controls in place while others did not. The workers at the highest risk were those involved in chipping concrete while repairing the substructure of bridges. These workers faced an average exposure to respirable crystalline silica of 527 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The OSHA regulation places an upper limit on worker exposure to silica dust at 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Other workers who faced almost twice the allowable limit were those operating crushing machines. The researchers urged that additional respiratory protective gear be provided.

Silica dust is a serious concern because it can contribute to a number of severe illnesses. Crystalline silica is a known carcinogen. In addition, breathing in silica dust from sand, stone or artificial stone can lead to silicosis as tiny particles abrade the lungs. This chronic disease can cause severe breathing problems and often grows progressively worse with time.

Workers in construction and other fields may face serious illnesses as a result of toxic exposure or other job hazards, especially when workplace safety rules are violated. A workers' compensation lawyer can help an injured employee protect their rights and seek the benefits they deserve.

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