Why the Sudden Concern with Silica?

Silica is a major component of planet Earth and has been from the beginning of time.  Exposure is higher than ever, due to increased activity in the construction and industrial areas.  OSHA’s (U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s, silica limits are now lower due to the sudden concern with silica a few years ago.  These limits are OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).  The lower PELs apply to general industry (29 CFR 1910), maritime industry (29 CFR 1915, 1917, & 1918), and construction (29 CFR 1926).

In the 1930’s, the United States became concerned with silica and the resulting disease silicosis. It is unknown why it suddenly came to the forefront.

What is Silica?

Silica is a compound made up of the element silicon and the element oxygen. It is made up of one atom of silicon (Si) and two atoms of oxygen (O) and is called silicon dioxide (SiO2).  The element silicon has metallic and non-metallic properties and makes up a large part of the earth’s crust.  Silica is found in the form of quartz, sand, and other minerals. It occurs in concrete, granite, slate, sandstone, and sandpaper.

What is the Exposure Route?

Silica enters the body through the respiratory tract. Workers breathe in silica and it can end up in their lungs.  Silicosis occurs more often as the exposure increases.

Silicosis, the Disease

Silicosis is the respiratory condition that can result from breathing in silica. It is a terrible disease which affects countless workers exposed to silica dust. Here is a link to OSHA’s video on silicosis: : .  It is short and to the point. It makes a strong point for avoiding silica exposure.

Silica Testing

ESC has lots of experience testing for silica. The firm has tested at various construction job sites under real and worst case conditions. Typically, this is done where concrete is being cut, milled, or drilled.

Plant with silica source
Ready-mix concrete plant with sand.

ESC has tested at manufacturing plants where granite counter tops are made, concrete products are constructed, roofing shingles are manufactured, and fertilizer is compounded, plus at a college where pottery is made.  ESC’s Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH, works with ESC’s staff level industrial hygienists in designing testing projects, interpreting the results, and preparing the report. More information is available on ESC’s web site.

Contact ESC ( for silica testing. ESC has been providing such testing in the industrial hygiene area for over thirtyEnvironmental Safety Consultants years. The staff has the credentials and experience to help with all silica testing and consulting needs. ESC is just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away ( Contact ESC today!