Refractories are heat-resistant materials that constitute the linings for high-temperature furnaces and reactors and other processing units. They are produced from natural and synthetic materials, usually non-metallic, or combinations of compounds and minerals such as alumina, fireclays, bauxite, chromite, dolomite, magnesite, silicon carbide, zirconia and others. Casting sand and kiln linings contain silica and, when dry, produce silica dust known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS).
If you are exposed to RCS then you are at risk of developing silicosis. This disease makes breathing more difficult and increases the risk of lung infections. Silicosis usually follows many years of exposure to RCS, however, exceptionally high exposures over a few months or years can cause acute silicosis, which can cause death within months of exposure. Heavy and prolonged exposure to RCS under the conditions that produce silicosis can cause lung cancer.
You may also develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which prevents you from breathing properly. COPD is a term that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Risks to health are greatly reduced where exposure to dusts and fumes is controlled with the use of local exhaust ventilation.