WASHINGTON –Countertop workers are in serious danger from silica dust emitted in cutting, finishing and even installing countertops, say the Occupational Health & Safety Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which jointly issued a hazard alert.

The alert follows reports of 61 workers in Spain and  Israel who developed silicosis as a result of exposure to crystalline silica as they worked manufacturing stone countertops. Incurable, silicosis progressively disables those suffering with it. It is sometimes fatal lung disease. Ten of the workers in Israel required lung transplants.

OSHA and NIOSH had already identified exposure to silica as a health hazard to workers involved in stone countertop operations in the United States, both in fabrication shops and during in-home finishing/installation. The alert applies to both natural

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and manufactured stone countertops.

Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks and sand. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at risk for silicosis. To protect workers from exposure to silica, OSHA and NIOSH advise monitoring the air to determine silica exposure levels; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control dust ; and providing workers with respiratory protection and training, and information about the hazards of silica.

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