June 9, 2022

NIOSH Seeks Comments on Silica Hazards in Artificial Stone Fabrication

NIOSH is seeking public comments that will help the agency develop a survey of artificial stone countertop fabrication facilities, as described in a Federal Register notice published on June 6. The survey would be part of a proposed project intended to help NIOSH better understand work practices and controls related to respirable crystalline silica in these facilities. The project would also examine factors aiding or hindering the implementation of medical and exposure monitoring requirements as well as identify areas for potential interventions within the artificial stone countertop manufacturing industry.

Silicosis is a potentially fatal lung disease associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica. According to the background information provided in the Federal Register, 24 cases of silicosis, including two deaths, have been reported among artificial stone fabrication workers in the U.S. The notice stresses that since artificial stone countertop fabrication is a relatively new technology, “the obligation to monitor workers’ health might not be known, considered, or understood; and education on potential hazards and health risks related to respirable crystalline silica is limited.” NIOSH anticipates that its proposed survey will increase communication with the industry about hazards, exposure mitigation methods, and better medical surveillance.

Interested parties have until Aug. 1, 2022, to submit comments regarding NIOSH’s proposal. More information, including details about the survey and how to submit comments, can be found in the Federal Register.

Related: Read “Engineering Controls for Respirable Crystalline Silica,” the cover article for the April 2022 Synergist issue, for an in-depth look at how NIOSH’s Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch is investigating other ways of limiting workplace exposures to silica.