March 2, 2023

NIOSH Reopens Comment Period on Silica Hazards in Artificial Stone Fabrication

A Federal Register notice published on Monday provides an additional 30 days for comments regarding a proposed NIOSH survey of artificial stone countertop fabrication facilities. The agency’s proposal, which was originally published in June 2022, explains that 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 would increase communication with the industry about hazards, exposure mitigation methods, and improved medical surveillance.

NIOSH received no comments regarding its original notice. This week’s announcement allows the public and affected agencies 30 more days to submit feedback about this proposal. More information, including instructions for submitting comments, can be found in the Federal Register.