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Publication of NIOSH Alerts: Requests for Assistance in Preventing Silicosis and Deaths from Silicosis

CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) periodically issues alerts on workplace hazards that have caused death, serious injury, or illness to workers. Two such alerts were recently released and are available to the public *: Request for Assistance in Preventing Silicosis and Deaths from Sandblasting (1) and Request for Assistance in Preventing Silicosis and Deaths in Rock Drillers (2).

Silicosis and Deaths from Sandblasting

This alert describes 99 cases of silicosis -- a serious and potentially fatal respiratory disease characterized by fibrotic nodules and scarring in the lungs -- from exposure to crystalline silica during sandblasting. Of these 99 workers, 14 have died from the disease. This alert provides recommendations to reduce crystalline silica exposures in the workplace and to prevent silicosis and silicosis-related deaths.

This publication also informs sandblasters and their coworkers and employers about the respiratory hazards associated with sandblasting. More than 1 million U.S. workers are estimated to be at risk for developing silicosis. More than 100,000 workers at risk are employed as sandblasters. Approximately 59,000 of the 1 million workers exposed to crystalline silica will eventually develop silicosis.

Request for Assistance in Preventing Silicosis and Deaths in Rock Drillers

This alert describes 23 workers who developed silicosis from exposure to crystalline silica during rock drilling. Two of these workers have died from the disease. This report reviews exposure limits for crystalline silica at surface and underground mines and provides recommendations to reduce crystalline silica exposures in the workplace and to prevent silicosis and silicosis-related deaths.

Exposure to crystalline silica during rock drilling can cause silicosis. Silicosis has been recognized in rock drillers employed in caisson construction, metal mining, slate quarries, tunnel construction, highway and dam construction, rock quarries, and underground coal mines (e.g., roof bolters). In addition, surface coal mine drilling presents a serious respiratory hazard to drillers and driller helpers; most of the recent case reports on silicosis in rock drillers involve surface coal mine drillers.

References

  1. NIOSH. NIOSH alert: request for assistance in preventing silicosis and deaths from sandblasting. Cincinnati: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, NIOSH, 1992; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)92-102.

  2. NIOSH. NIOSH alert: request for assistance in preventing silicosis and deaths in rock drillers. Cincinnati: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, NIOSH, 1992; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)92-107.

    • Single copies of these documents are available without charge from the Information Dissemination Section, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, NIOSH, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226; telephone (513) 533-8287 (1:00-4:30 p.m., Eastern time); fax (513) 533-8573.

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