September 26, 2019

CDC: Eighteen Silicosis Cases among U.S. Stone Workers Since 2017

CDC has identified 18 cases of silicosis, including two fatalities, among engineered stone fabrication workers since 2017, according to an item in the latest issue of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The cases occurred in the states of California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington. Most of the patients reported conducting tasks such as cutting and grinding engineered stone, while two reported that they were exposed to stone dust only during workplace housekeeping activities.

The workers who died were ages 36 and 38. Both fatalities occurred in California. According to CDC, a California Division of Occupational Safety and Health inspection in 2009 revealed levels of respirable crystalline silica at one workplace to be up to 22 times higher than the permissible exposure limit of 0.1 mg/m3 in effect in California at that time.

Several of the patients also had autoimmune disease and latent tuberculosis infection.

Silicosis is a preventable occupational disease attributable to the inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles. Previously, only one case of silicosis had been reported among engineered stone fabrication workers in the U.S., according to CDC.

Reports in other countries have confirmed the existence of multiple silicosis cases among stone workers. In February 2019, the Australian news agency ABC published information about silicosis among stone workers in the state of Queensland, where nearly 100 stoneworkers tested positive for silicosis and 15 had developed progressive massive fibrosis, a severe form of the disease.

More information about crystalline silica is available from the websites of CDC and NIOSH. An infographic about silicosis among Queensland stone workers appeared in the April 2014 Synergist.