TUESDAY, Dec. 10, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- More action is needed
to reduce illness and death among the millions of Americans exposed
to silica dust at work, according to a new report.
It has long been known that silica -- a natural substance found
in most rocks, sand and clay -- causes the lung disease silicosis,
and evidence has mounted in recent decades that silica causes lung
cancer, said report co-author Kyle Steenland, of the School of
Public Health at Emory University.
"Current regulations have substantially reduced silicosis death
rates in the United States, but new cases of silicosis continue to
be diagnosed," Steenland said.
Recommended measures include stronger regulations, increased
awareness and prevention, and greater attention to early detection
of silicosis and lung cancer using low-dose CT scanning, the
researchers said in the current issue of
CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
"While the lung cancer risk associated with silica exposure is
not as large as some other lung carcinogens, like smoking or
asbestos exposure, there is strong and consistent evidence that
silica exposure increases lung cancer risk," Steenland said in a
journal news release.
The risk of on-the-job exposure to silica is highest in the
construction industry. Exposure occurs when workers cut, grind,
crush or drill silica-containing materials such as concrete,
masonry, tile and rock.
About 320,000 U.S. workers are exposed to silica dust in
operations such as foundry work, sandblasting and brick, concrete
and pottery manufacturing. Silica exposure also occurs from
hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in oil and gas wells.
The most effective ways to control silica exposure on the job
include banning sandblasting, avoiding abrasive blasting, modifying
processes and equipment, controlling dust transmission, and using
personal protective equipment, the report said.
Although people are exposed to low levels of silica on beaches
and in the air, there is no evidence that such low-level exposure
affects health, the report said.
The American Lung Association has more about