Determinants of respirable crystalline silica exposure among stoneworkers involved in stone restoration work.Ann Occup Hyg. 2014 Jan; 58(1):6-18.AO
Crystalline silica occurs as a significant component of many traditional materials used in restoration stonework, and stoneworkers who work with these materials are potentially exposed to stone dust containing respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Exposure to RCS can result in the development of a range of adverse health effects, including silicosis and lung cancer. An understanding of the determinants of RCS exposure is important for selecting appropriate exposure controls and in preventing occupational diseases. The objectives of this study were to quantify the RCS exposure of stoneworkers involved in the restoration and maintenance of heritage properties and to identify the main determinants of RCS exposure among this occupational group.
An exposure assessment was carried out over a 3-year period amongst a group of stonemasons and stone cutters involved in the restoration and maintenance of heritage buildings in Ireland. Personal air samples (n = 103) with corresponding contextual information were collected. Exposure data were analysed using mixed-effects modelling to investigate determinants of RCS exposure and their contribution to the individual's mean exposure. Between-depot, between-worker, and within-worker variance components were also investigated.
The geometric mean (GM) RCS exposure concentrations for all tasks measured ranged from <0.02 to 0.70mg m(-3). GM RCS exposure concentrations for work involving limestone and lime mortar were <0.02-0.01mg m(-3), tasks involving granite were 0.01-0.06mg m(-3), and tasks involving sandstone were <0.02-0.70mg m(-3). Sixty-seven percent of the 8-h time-weighted average (TWA) exposure measurements for tasks involving sandstone exceeded the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits recommended occupational exposure limit value of 0.05mg m(-3). Highest RCS exposure values were recorded for the tasks of grinding (GM = 0.70mg m(-3)) and cutting (GM = 0.70mg m(-3)) sandstone. In the mixed-effects analyses, task was found to be significantly associated with RCS exposure, with the tasks of grinding and cutting resulting in average exposures of between 32 and 70 times the exposures recorded for the task of stone decorating. The between-depot, between-worker, and within-worker variance components were reduced by 46, 89, and 49%, respectively, after including task in the mixed effects model.
Restoration stoneworkers are regularly overexposed (compared with 0.1 and 0.05mg m(-3) 8-h TWA) to RCS dust when working with sandstone. The results indicate that the tasks of cutting and grinding sandstone are predictors of increased exposure to RCS dust. In order to decrease exposure to RCS, efforts should be focused on developing and implementing interventions which focus on these high-risk tasks.