Crystalline Silica

Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica, also known as silica dust, in a variety of industries, including construction, mining, oil and gas extraction, stone countertop fabrication, foundries and other manufacturing settings. Silica dust is made up of small particles that become airborne during various work activities including cutting, drilling, chipping, sanding, or grinding materials that contain crystalline silica. These materials can include sand, concrete, brick, block, stone, and mortar.

Silicosis, an irreversible but preventable lung disease, is caused by inhalation of respirable silica dust. Work exposures to silica dust also cause other serious diseases, including lung cancer.

This webpage provides information and guidance for workers, employers, and safety and health professionals on ways to minimize crystalline silica exposures at work and prevent related health outcomes.

Worker sanding a stone countertop wearing respiratory protection and using engineering controls.

Photo by NIOSH

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Page last reviewed: December 18, 2020