The Daily Mail, a well-known print publication, published an article about the drawbacks of quartz worktops that is being frequently noticed in stonemasons, who cut and polish them.
Unregulated silica processing in the stone industry has resulted in many deaths, especially in Scotland where high-silica sandstone was used to build Edinburgh’s New Town. Silicosis is believed to have killed 23 out of 70 men who were involved in the construction of the Scott Monument. This was a very disturbing news at that time.
According to health experts, human beings are not at risk from natural and manufactured stone products, as well as completed countertops. However, workers can inhale dangerous amounts of quartz silica dust from cutting, drilling, and polishing natural or engineered stones. Workers in countertop manufacturing can be exposed to dangerous silica dust from working with crushed quartz.
News Reference: Quartz Worktops and the Dangers of Silicosis – Trust Triangle
Why are employees in stone countertop manufacturing, polishing and installation industries at risk from silica?
Workers who use power tools such as grinders, saws and high-speed polishers in countertop manufacturing, finishing and installation are most exposed to silica dust. These exposures can be caused by dry cutting or polishing stone. This could happen in a workshop, or at a job site that does cutting and polishing. Countertop installations are prime examples of such cases.
Personnel in the manufactured stone industry may be exposed to silica dust when opening crushed quartz bags, mixing large quantities, or cleaning out dust collection bag houses. It may also happen when mixing resins with quartz in the machines.
Other workers who work in close proximity of silica dust-generating plants may be exposed. Without effective safety systems in place, workers can be exposed to silica-containing dust.
What steps can be taken to minimize Silica Dust and silicosis when working with Quartz?
- Use a water spray to cut Quartz. The risk of getting dusty quartz is greatly reduced if the material is kept wet.
- Worker safety communication protocols should be well-planned, implemented and maintained.
- Business owners must provide respirators. Employers must provide breathing masks if they are required.
- Stonemasons should use automated procedures, which will make it easier for them to get away from the task of cutting edges. These investments are great for accuracy and performance, but they also protect their employees.
Health risks from countertops or sandstone statues at home
There is almost no risk from finished products. As discussed earlier it is only a danger when stone are being cut polished, drilled into. Finished products do not cause silicosis. There are stone statues in hospitals and quartz worktops too. Quartz Worktops are actually considered anti-microbial and a safe choice for building kitchen worktops and in hospitals as well.
Ref: Antibacterial Countertops – Premium Worktops UK
However, if you are still concerned about the death of workers in Quartz processing industries, you may still consider alternatives like acrylic, metal or laminate worktops.