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OSHA proposes new rule to protect workers from carcinogenic silica

Posted: August 26, 2013 |   Comments

( The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) issued a proposed rule Friday that would dramatically limit permissible levels of crystalline silica, a known carcinogen. Silica, a basic component of soil, sand, and other naturally occurring resources, becomes airborne when concrete, brick and stone products are sawed, drilled or crushed, as well as during operations using sand products.

Crystalline silica kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more every year, according to Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA. The agency estimates that the newly proposed rule would save around 700 lives annually and prevent a total of 1,600 new cases of silicosis, a chronic disease caused by inhaling silica, each year.

Since the current standards were set, back in 1971, silica has been recognized by the scientific community as a human carcinogen. Michaels explains that the current standards, based on information from the 1960s, don't match up-to-date scientific research and should be updated.

Methods of reducing exposure to silica include using a vacuum to collect dust before it can be inhaled by workers or keeping the material wet to prevent the silica from becoming airborne. OSHA will accept written comments on the proposal over the next 90 days before proceeding with public hearings.

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