Occupational exposure to crystalline silica at Alberta work sites.J Occup Environ Hyg. 2014; 11(9):557-70.JO
Although crystalline silica has been recognized as a health hazard for many years, it is still encountered in many work environments. Numerous studies have revealed an association between exposure to respirable crystalline silica and the development of silicosis and other lung diseases including lung cancer. Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour conducted a project to evaluate exposure to crystalline silica at a total of 40 work sites across 13 industries. Total airborne respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica concentrations were quite variable, but there was a potential to exceed the Alberta Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) of 0.025 mg/m(3) for respirable crystalline silica at many of the work sites evaluated. The industries with the highest potentials for overexposure occurred in sand and mineral processing (GM 0.090 mg/m(3)), followed by new commercial building construction (GM 0.055 mg/m(3)), aggregate mining and crushing (GM 0.048 mg/m(3)), abrasive blasting (GM 0.027 mg/m(3)), and demolition (GM 0.027 mg/m(3)). For worker occupations, geometric mean exposure ranged from 0.105 mg/m(3) (brick layer/mason/concrete cutting) to 0.008 mg/m(3) (dispatcher/shipping, administration). Potential for GM exposure exceeding the OEL was identified in a number of occupations where it was not expected, such as electricians, carpenters and painters. These exposures were generally related to the specific task the worker was doing, or arose from incidental exposure from other activities at the work site. The results indicate that where there is a potential for activities producing airborne respirable crystalline silica, it is critical that the employer include all worker occupations at the work site in their hazard assessment. There appears to be a relationship between airborne total respirable dust concentration and total respirable dust concentrations, but further study is require to fully characterize this relationship. If this relationship holds true, it may provide a useful hazard assessment tool for employers by which the potential for exposure to airborne respirable silica at the work site can be more easily estimated.