Crystalline Silica

Man grinding stone with power tool.

Photo by NIOSH

Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in a variety of industries. These include construction, mining, oil and gas extraction, stone countertop fabrication, foundries and other manufacturing settings.

Respirable crystalline silica is also known as silica dust. Silica dust is made up of small particles that become airborne during work activities with materials that contain crystalline silica. Activities include:

  • Cutting
  • Drilling
  • Chipping
  • Sanding
  • Grinding

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 on ways to minimize crystalline silica exposures at work and prevent related health outcomes.

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Page last reviewed: December 18, 2020