Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is in most rocks, sands, clays and also products such as bricks, tiles and concrete. When these materials are worked, eg cut, sanded, carved, ground etc, dust is created. This dust may be fine enough to be breathed deep into the lungs.
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. 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. Effective control is likely to be achieved by a mixture of controls including local exhaust ventilation (LEV) for dust and fume extraction, respiratory protection equipment (RPE), water suppression and process changes. Find more detailed information for Stoneworkers.