In its original form, asbestos is actually a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. As such, asbestos is really a form of a silicate material, in the same way that silica dust is. Even though they have similarities in their composition and the target organ in the human body, there still continues to be differences in attitudes towards asbestos and silica.
The hazards of asbestos are now well detailed in the media, the asbestos abatement industry, and reflected in numerous laws worldwide. Yet the process of hazard recognition, documentation and legislation took time. It wasn’t until decades after exposing workers to asbestos that we began to see the devastating long term health effects of asbestos exposure. While the appropriately stringent guidelines were eventually put in place regarding asbestos exposure, sadly, much of it was after the fact and the damage had been done. Now, there is a lot more awareness and caution around asbestos exposure, but are you as aware of the hazards and precautions needed around crystalline silice?
Despite similar health hazards, the dangers of crystalline silica exposure are not fully communicated and widespread…yet. Over the last decade, as more people are diagnosed with silicosis, there has been a large push amongst both industry and regulating bodies to put into place the necessary framework to bring awareness to silica exposure and protect from its harmful effects.