The chemical compound silicon dioxide, also known as silica, occurs in nature in several forms, including quartz and opal. Silica is the most common constituent in sand, usually in the form of quartz. Silica is used in a variety of applications including glass, clay-based ceramics, firebrick and cements (i.e., “Portland Cement”).
Inhaling silica dust can lead to silicosis or lung cancer. Silica is also associated with the development of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Silicosis (lung-scarring caused by silica inhalation) is one of the oldest known occupational lung diseases or “pneumoconioses.” It is incurable and leads to shortness of breath and other respiratory problems which can lead to death.
Traditionally, those occupations involved in foundry work, glass-making, brick-making or brick-laying, or sandblasting are at risk of silica disease. The hazards of silica exposure have been known to industry for nearly a century.