What is silica?
Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete. Silica is also used as filler in some plastics. In the workplace these materials create dust when they are cut, sanded, carved etc. Some of this dust may be fine enough to breathe deeply into your lungs and cause harm to your health. The fine dust is called respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and is too fine to see with normal lighting.
How can RCS harm your health?
By breathing in RCS, you could develop the following lung diseases:
Silicosis: Silicosis makes breathing more difficult and increases the risk of lung infections. Silicosis usually follows exposure to RCS over many years, but extremely high exposures can lead rapidly to ill health.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): COPD is a group of lung diseases, including bronchitis and emphysema, resulting in severe breathlessness, prolonged coughing and chronic disability. It may be caused by breathing in any fine dusts, including RCS. It can be very disabling and is a leading cause of death. Cigarette smoking can make it worse.
Lung cancer: Heavy and prolonged exposure to RCS can cause lung cancer. When someone already has silicosis, there is an increased risk of lung cancer.
The health risks from RCS are insignificant when exposure to dust is adequately controlled – you do not need to become ill through work activiti