Where are the hazards?
Crystalline silica is one of the commonest minerals in the earths crust and forms a proportion of the many materials extracted from quarries. When crushed or abraded during quarrying activities, materials containing silica create respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust. It is this respirable dust that is associated with the respiratory disease silicosis.
What are the risks?
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.
How to Control
Methods of dust control include: suppression - water, steam, mist or fog sprays; collection - cyclones,scrubbers, bag fitters; containment - encapsulation. Practical guidance on reducing exposure to RCS is given in the Quarrying COSHH essentials: Advice is also given on how to ensure all control measures are kept and maintained in good, efficient working order.