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Glossary: Silica

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Silica can be found in sand and brick dust as well as clay and ash. In a fine dust form it is also known as Respirable Crystalline Silica or respirable quartz.

Inhaling silica can lead to silicosis, an irreversible disease that causes permanent damage to the lungs including COPD and lung cancer. Fine sands and silica is particularly damaging as the fine grains can get deep into lung tissue.

The highest concentration of silica is found in sandstone, gritstone and in quartzite (more than seventy percent), but is also find in high concentrations in concrete, mortar, shale and in brick.

As you would expect, occupations most at risk include builders, construction site workers, stonemasons, slate workers and foundry workers.

Employers have an obligation under Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) to provide workers with adequate PPE, to carry out risk assessments and to give workers access to washroom showers and storage for clean and contaminated clothing.

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