Workers making kitchen countertops in the US & Australia allegedly falling ill due to silica dust exposure

Author: Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR, Published on: 9 October 2019

"Workers Are Falling Ill, Even Dying, After Making Kitchen Countertops", 2 October 2019

Artificial stone used to make kitchen and bathroom countertops has been linked to cases of death and irreversible lung injury in workers who cut, grind and polish this... The fear is that thousands of workers in the United States who create countertops out of what's known as "engineered stone" may be inhaling dangerous amounts of lung-damaging silica dust, because engineered stone is mostly made of the mineral silica.

... A spokesperson for a trade organization [representing] major manufacturers of engineered stone, A.St.A. World-wide [said] that "[dust-related diseases] are not specific to engineered stone... [and engineered stone is] totally safe in their fabrication and installation if it is performed according to the recommended practices"... One recent study in Australia found that at least 12% of workers who cut stone countertops had silicosis. Officials estimate that there are more than 8,000 stone fabrication businesses in the United States. Many are small-scale operations that might not understand the dangers of silica or how to control it. In 2016, [Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA)] issued... [a new rule reducing] the permissible exposure level to half of what it had been... A year later, the incoming Trump administration ended the safety agency's national emphasis program for silica... A spokesperson for OSHA [said] "Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards."

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