Silica Dust Is Toxic To Your Kidneys & You May Not Know You’re Working With It

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will begin to enforce the crystalline silica rule for construction, which begins on June 23, 2018.

Why is OSHA so focused on silica dust and why should you be aware of it?

Because exposure to this dust can cause some very serious health effects such as kidney disease. People who work with silica dust are at increased risk of having health problems, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease. Yes, kidney disease! How so you may ask? Those tiny particles get inhaled into your lungs and spread out through your body through every organ. Creating damage along the way and wrecking havoc on your precious kidneys.

Employers are required to protect workers from the hazards of breathing crystalline silica (silica dust).

OSHA’s National Emphasis Program has included silica dust for many years as a focus of agency inspections. Now, however, with the newly established lower permissible exposure level (PEL), it will likely be scrutinized more thoroughly.

Many naturally occurring materials contain silica, it’s used in a plethora of industrial products and for a variety of purposes at construction sites. Materials such as stone, concrete, sand and mortar contain silica. Crystalline silica is one of the main components in things like glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete, and artificial stone. Workers are primarily exposed during abrasive blasting and when industrial sand containing silica is used, such as in foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations.

What You Should Do To Protect Yourself From Exposure?

  • If you work in an industry in which exposure to silica dust is likely to occur, then your employer should be following the new regulations. If they aren’t, you should contact OSHA immediately. 
  • Remain informed regarding the negative health impacts of breathing silica dust and the work tasks that generate this dust on the job.
  • Reduce exposure by using a respirator and avoiding working in the dust whenever possible. 
  • Avail yourself of any health or lung screening programs offered by your employer.
  • Use good personal hygiene at work. Make sure to always wash your hands and face before eating, drinking or smoking outside dusty areas.
  • Do not eat, drink or use tobacco products in dusty areas.
  • Change into disposable or washable work clothes at the worksite.
  • Shower (if possible) and change into clean clothes before leaving the worksite to prevent contamination of other work areas, cars, and homes.
  • Park cars where they will not be contaminated with silica.
  • Avoid housekeeping practices that could cause silica dust to become airborne, like dry sweeping and using compressed air when alternatives are available.
  • Provide respirators and personal protective equipment (PPE) when control methods do not sufficiently reduce exposure.

Environmental exposures are becoming a bigger source for  kidney disease and associated disorders such as auto-immune diseases. View our Pollution and Kidney Disease article section to learn more about these environmental exposures that can effect you.


February 2018, Safety Summit 2018: OSHA to begin enforcement of silica dust general industry rule. By Ana Ellington,