One of the main reasons why industrial dust collection systems, such as downdraft tables, are such vital pieces of equipment is because of dangerous substances like silica. Here’s what you should know about the dangers of silica.

What Is Crystalline Silica?

Crystalline silica is a basic part of sand, soil, and several other different types of minerals. Quartz is the most common form of crystalline silica, but granite can contain up to 70% silica. It’s that common. The other two most common forms of crystalline silica include cristobalite and tridymite. If cut, ground, drilled, or chipped, any of these can create crystalline silica dust, which can be easily breathed in and create a health concern.

Why Is It So Dangerous?

Crystalline silica exposure is a serious threat to about 2 million workers in the United States, including 100,000 workers in jobs that are already hazardous, such as tunneling, quarry work, rock drilling, stone cutting, foundry work, and abrasive blasting. If workers inhale crystalline silica, acute silicosis can occur after only weeks to months of exposure. This serious medical condition can disable those affected, or even prove to be fatal. The silica dust enters the lungs, and causes scar tissue to form, which reduces the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. So far, there is no cure for silicosis.

Does it Really Pose That Big of a Threat?

Silicosis from crystalline silica exposure is far more common than you might think. Each year, hundreds of workers in the U.S. die and hundreds more become disabled, making them unable to provide care for themselves, or their families. It’s such a huge problem, that since 1968, more than 14,000 workers have died from silicosis, and up to 1 million more remain at risk right now of developing the debilitating disease.

If your facility works with any material that contains crystalline silica, it needs to have air ventilation equipment, such as a downdraft booth or table on its premises. These air ventilation and dust collection systems could potentially save workers’ lives from the dangers of silica exposure— as well as reduce organizational risk of significant fines from regulatory agencies.

If you have any questions about the dangers of silica, feel free to share in the comments.