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Silica Exposure and Construction BusinessResearch Paper

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Silica Exposure in Construction Workers

Construction workers that breathe dusting containing respirable crystalline silica may lead to a deadly lung disease known as silicosis. Unfortunately, treatment does not exist for silicosis. However, it is preventable through controlling a worker's exposure to crystalline silica. Other disease linked to silica exposure are kidney disease, lung cancer, reduced lung function as well as other disorders. Construction materials like mortar, concrete, block, and brick contain crystalline silica.

The recommend limit of exposure for crystalline silica is 50 micrograms per cubic meter for up to 10 hours each workday in a maximum 40-hour workweek. The fraction of aerosol that is tiny enough to each deeper gas-exchange areas of the lung is categorized as respirable dust. High construction tasks for example, produce respirable dusts that often contain crystalline silica. Such tasks include concrete saw cutting and concrete core drilling. Even in interior construction, efforts, such activities as drywall finishing, which involve dry and wet sanding and applying can increase rate of exposure to crystalline silica.

In order to perform the drilling as seen in highway construction, construction workers use dowel-drilling machines to drill horizontal holes within concrete pavement. This paper will focus on an in depth literature review of silica exposure while performing these activities. It will look at past data and studies in order to develop controls and evaluate exposures to silica to identify activities and work habits that either reduce or increase silica exposure for construction workers. The methodology section will contain a sampling as well as results that will test the hypothesis generated in the essay.

Silica exposure is more common than believed and can happen in highway construction as much as home renovation. Certain work patterns and personal work habits may prevent serious silica exposure. The opposite can also be said as some may increase exposure.

II. Introduction

Dust can be hazardous to construction workers. This is because much of the dust during construction may contain crystalline silica. This respirable dust can reach the lungs and have the potential to cause serious disease to those who are exposed to it. Such serious diseases are lung disease, lung cancer, silicosis, as well as other system illnesses. Therefore, recommendations for respiratory protection and work practices must be in place in order to prevent such incidents from happening.

The most common type of crystalline silica is Quartz. Quart accounts for nearly 12% by volume of earth's crust and is the second most common type of surface material. Quartz exists within numerous materials such as mortar, brick, concrete, dimensional stone, slate, tile, stone aggregate, and sand utilized for blasting. Other kinds of construction materials that also contain crystalline silica are roofing granules, asphalt filler, soils, plastic composites, and to a lesser level, paint, plaster, putty, caulking, and some wallboard joint compounds. Other than quarts, cristobalite also exists several high temperature exposed places like some ceramic tiles, brick lining of vessels and boilers and even volcanic ash.

Such common occurrence of quartz and to a lesser extent, cristobalite, demands that construction workers take precautions when performing certain tasks. For example, highway construction involves concrete saw cutting and concrete core drilling. Interior construction may involve drywall finishing: applying, dry sanding, and wet sanding. These activities all require construction workers to take safety precautions in order to minimize silica exposure.

The crystalline silica allowable exposure limit for the construction industry lies at 29 CFR 1926.55(a) and is expressed in terms of millions of particles per cubic foot or mppcf (OSHA.GOV, 2009, p. 3). In terms of increase or decreasing likelihood of crystalline silica exposure, it all depends on the concentration of silica within materials located in construction sites. In addition, factors experienced in the work environment. These could include semi-enclosed, enclosed, open spaces, and/or multiple operations creating silica dust. Environmental conditions can also play a part such as wind speed and direction.

Organizations like OSHA encourage employers conduct intermittent exposure monitoring to confirm work and engineering practice controls remain effective as well as that suitable respiratory protection is being utilized when required. Controls continually evolve such as equipment modification. Anyone working in construction should take precautions working in any environment, whether it be outdoor or indoor. This paper will highlight levels of exposure in the multiple settings discussed: concrete saw cutting; concrete core drilling and drywall finishing: applying, dry sanding, and wet sanding using literature and past studies.

Such information will help reveal the need to use respiratory protection while performing the tasks within the list. It will also show how to develop controls and evaluate more effectively exposures to crystalline silica. The problem is over exposure to silica during construction activities and the solution lies in creating awareness of how much exposure as well as forming effective controls to reduce crystalline silica exposure.

If construction workers ae aware of which activities produce high levels of crystalline silica exposure and the kind of precautions needed to prevent breathing such hazardous material, overall exposure rates can diminish. Organizations like OSHA already have in place safety precautions to reduce crystalline silica exposure. This paper will also conduct a sampling and review past data in order to compare data from current studies.

The literature review will add additional information on past information. It will provide information on techniques that were successful at reducing exposure to crystalline silica as well as protection equipment that was useful in preventing increased exposure. Each section will cover one activity and or development of identification and implementation.

a. Problem

Over exposure to silica during construction activities is an ongoing problem experienced by construction workers. Numerous construction activities may put construction workers at risk of inhaling silica-containing dusts, and there is significant body of literature detailing exposure levels by means of a task-based strategy. In a 2012 study, researchers used statistical modeling to examine a data set that contained 1466 task-based, individual RCS or respirable crystalline silica measurements collected from 46 sources to approximate exposure levels for the duration of construction tasks as well as the effects of factors of exposure.

Suave et al. used the Monte -- Carlo simulation to recreate personal exposures from summary limits. The statistical modeling involved multimodal inference "with Tobit models containing combinations of the following exposure variables: sampling year, sampling duration, construction sector, project type, workspace, ventilation, and controls. The model containing all the variables explained 60% of the variability and was identified as the best approximating model" (Sauve et al., 2012, p. 432). From the twenty-seven tasks checked in the data set, masonry chipping, abrasive blasting, scabbling concrete, tunnel boring, and tuck pointing had estimated geometric averages above 0.1mg m?3 established on the exposure scenario developed.

When examining activities that involve anything that disperses particles readily like tunneling and sawing, crystalline silica was found in higher levels than when no such activities were performed. This is important in order to identify properly which activities are more prone to crystalline silica exposure than others are. Construction workers perform many activities during work hours. Examining their work habits and safety standards established within the workplace may help reduce the problem of overexposure in construction activities. Quartz is very common among surface materials especially in construction. Reduction of exposure must be met in the majority of construction activities, even indoor ones like dry walling.

b. Background

Silica, a naturally occurring mineral in soil and rock, is the second most abundant mineral on the earth's surface. When a person inhales, silica dust can cause cancer, silicosis, and increases the risk of developing Tuberculosis or TB infection. Crystalline silica or airborne silica is present in many industries like mining, foundry work, concrete manufacturing, glass, stone crushing, pottery, painting, and most importantly, construction.

The stone crushing industry has high rates of silica exposure with many cases reported in developing countries. This is due to most mills operating without dust controls. An estimated 12,000 stone crusher mills exist in India alone and provide direct employment for over 500,000 workers, many of whom are underprivileged women and children. Statistics from the Indian Government estimate ten million people are exposed to crystalline silica dust while on the job. Studies highlight the common occurrence of lung disease, TB infection, and silicosis among those exposed to silica dust.

Work-related exposure to silica dust within the mining industry is an international concern. Most developing countries' labor force is comprised primarily of migrant workers. Attrition rates among that population are high. "Over one million mineworkers in China and 500,000 in South Africa have been diagnosed with silicosis. In southern Africa migrant workers in mineral mines experience higher rates of HIV and an associated TB incidence that is reportedly ten times that of the general population" (Okinternational.org, 2015). India's mining industry offers employment to more than 1.1 million people. Thousands more are employed in unofficial, small mines. Although the number of people exposed to silica dust remain high in these areas, diagnosis for silica-related diseases like silicosis are low. The Indian government must promote awareness of such illnesses to prevent complications in those exposed to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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