If it is ingested it will pass through the human system without any ill effects. However silica is often associated with silicosis, a lung disease especially found in miners. The inhalation of fine silica dust in large enough quantities can lead to this disease. This is often the case in people who work in close proximity to large quantities of silica dist, such as in sandblasting. This process is explained succinctly as follows;
Silicosis is lung damage caused by breathing dust containing fine particles of crystalline silica. If silica particles are inhaled they become embedded in the lungs, the lung tissues react by developing fibrotic nodules and scarring around the trapped particles. The scare tissue makes the lungs hard and stiff. The scaring can greatly reduce the function of the lungs making it difficult and sometimes painful to breathe.
Silica Dust Exposure)
As mentioned above, silica is prevalent and even ubiquitous in contemporary society and therefore poses a real threat to health in some respects, especially in industry. As one study on the subject states;
Every year more than one million American workers are exposed to silica dust at their jobs. Deaths from silicosis currently number about 300 cases per year. Hundreds more are being permanently disabled by this disease. Every one of these cases is an unnecessary tragedy, because silicosis is absolutely preventable
Silica Dust Exposure)
Among the different types of situations and occupations that are prone to health risks from exposure to silica are the following;
Construction: sandblasting, rock drilling, masonry work, jack hammering, tunneling;
Any occupation where workers are handling rock, brick, sand, or drilling, quarrying, or tunneling
Foundry work: grinding, moldings, shakeout, core room;
Manufacturing of soaps and detergents;
Paper and pulp mills: repair or replacement of linings of rotary kilns;
Food processing operations: preparing crops for market, sorting, grading, and washing.
Silica Dust Exposure)
3.2. Safety measures
It therefore follows that employers are particularly responsible for ensuring the safety of staff that are exposed to silica and silica products. The first and most obvious safety measure is the control of exposure to silica dust. Another measure that is often used is the minimization of...
(Silica Dust Exposure) Other measures include the use of exhaust ventilation to remove the silica dust form the area as well as dust control methods such as vacuuming with a high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filter. (Silica Dust Exposure)
There are also various administrative controls that can be implemented; such as the monitoring of the air in the workplace. Training is another aspect that is recommended and all employers should train their staff in the dangers of exposure to this substance; as well informing staff about the particular operations and processes that produce the silica dust. Personal hygiene is also a factor of the safety process and all workers should be informed about in order to avoid unnecessary exposure to this substance. Lastly, regular medical examination are necessary to ensure that workers and others have not been affected by exposure to silica should be undertaken.
3.3. Storage and transport
While inert in combination with other elements silica can be an extremely dangerous substance. For instance, ferrosilicon can be mixed with aluminum and calcium and " When it comes into contact with moist air or water, an explosive chemical reaction occurs in which hydrogen is released" (SILICON or SILICA). Consequently there are strict laws about the shipping of ferrosilicon and the substance must be kept very clean and dry. The caution is also extended to other substances that should be carefully controlled and stored. One of these is Silicon (IV) chloride. This material requires specific storage requirements, such as storage away from water/moisture are close to alkalis or metals. (Material Safety Data Sheet)
Lavender M. (1999) the Importance of Silica to the Modern World
Material Safety Data Sheet. Retrieved Sept. 26, 2007, at http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/krubin/MSDS/Silicontetrachloride.html
Silica. Retrieved Sept. 26, 2007, at http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-silica.html
Silica Dust Exposure. Retrieved Sept. 26, 2007, at http://www.erd.dli.mt.gov/safetyhealth/brochures/silicadustexposure.pdf.
Silicon carbide. Retrieved Sept. 26, 2007, at http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-siliconc.html
Silicon Dioxide or Silica. Retrieved Sept. 26, 2007, at http://www.the- piedpiper.co.uk/th13(a).htm
SILICON or SILICA. Retrieved Sept. 26, 2007, at http://www.mii.org/Minerals/photosil.html
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