Hazards of cutting and handling artificial stone compounds
Some communities, especially in Spain, Israel and the United States, are alarmed by the growing number of occupational diseases associated with workers who daily handle silica-rich material. What material is this? It is an artificial product, derived from stone, which combines quartz, silica, resins, Portland cement, which will give originate a synthetic material used in both civil construction and domestic use such as kitchen countertops or bathrooms. Some leading manufacturers, such as CaesarStone ™, Silestone ™, Zodiaq ™, or Cambria ™ have a large catalog of these products.
These resulting materials from these blends have up to 94% silica crystals. On other hand, the percentage of silica crystals on a granite plate is less than 45%. Dark-colored granites or marble still have a lower percentage. Workers who handle these materials, such as grinding, forming, cutting, polishing, finishing, are very exposed to silica. Prolonged exposure to silica dust can lead to a condition called "Silicosis".
Limestone is a carbonate rock, rich in calcium carbonate and has no silica in its composition.
"Silicosis," also called miners' disease, is a disease caused by constant breathing of silica-rich dust. Chronic symptoms may appear after prolonged exposure for more than 10 years when breathing in these fine dust resulting from the handling of these synthetic materials. In 2012, researchers in Israel followed 25 patients with silicosis, who shared a common history of exposure to dust. They all worked in the same quartz-rich decorative artificial stone plant for a period of 10-14 years, performing dry-cutting tasks of these materials for kitchen countertops and other applications. Also in Spain, cases were diagnosed of this disease in workers who operated these materials, containing silica between 70-90%. With ages between 29 - 37 years and working in the industry between 9 to 17 years. Chiclana de la Frontera, (Cadiz) was an agricultural region before the construction boom in Spain. In a few years it became a pole specializing in the elaboration of these artificial materials, derived from natural stone, rich in quartz and silica. The new constructions wanted these colorful and modern benches, and then there was a growing number of workshops handling these materials, often coming from the cutting of marble and granite, but without taking the extra precautions that this new product demands. Of 24 offices in 2007, only 4 remain. Only in this region of Cadiz, more than 100 confirmed cases and more than 200 in Andalusia, being in this province that the greater number of patients is concentrated.
Prevention is in minimizing the risks associated with the inhalation of these dusts. Whenever possible, the cutting should be in a humid environment or with ventilation systems and filters to collect the dust at its source. It is also advisable to use properly approved respiratory masks.
Solancis announces this news as an alert for the industrial community of the sector as well as for consumers. The health and well-being of all employees is a general concern. We want to contribute to the success of all, with good practices and occupational health.
At Solancis we care about the health of all our employees. Although we do not use this synthetic material, all cuts are made in a humid environment, with homologated masks.
Learn more at:
"El Pais" news about the disease
"El Pais" news about the affected community
National Center for Biotechnology Information, USA
Centers for disease control and prevention, USA.