Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-129, 2002 Apr; :1-127
Occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica are associated with the development of silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and airways diseases. These exposures may also be related to the development of autoimmune disorders, chronic renal disease, and other adverse health effects. Recent epidemiologic studies demonstrate that workers have a significant risk of developing chronic silicosis when they are exposed to respirable crystalline silica over a working lifetime at the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) PEL, or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure limit (REL). This NIOSH Hazard Review examines the health risks and diseases associated with occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica, discusses important findings of recent epidemiologic studies, provides the reader with sources of more comprehensive information about health effects and experimental studies describes current sampling and analytical methods and their limitations for assessing occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica, and suggests many areas for further research. Current sampling and analytical methods used to evaluate occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica do not meet the accuracy criterion needed to quantify exposures at concentrations below the NIOSH REL of 0.05 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) for up to a 10-hr workday during a 40-hr workweek. Until improved sampling and analytical methods are developed for respirable crystalline silica, NIOSH will continue to recommend an exposure limit of 0.05 mg/m3 to reduce the risk of developing silicosis, lung cancer, and other adverse health effects. NIOSH also recommends minimizing the risk of illness that remains for workers exposed at the REL by substituting less hazardous materials for crystalline silica when feasible, by using appropriate respiratory protection when source controls cannot keep exposures below the NIOSH REL, and by making medical examinations available to exposed workers.
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