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Safety regulator recognizes dangers relating to stone countertops

Quartz countertops can do a lot for the beauty of a kitchen, but they can also wreak havoc on the lungs of the workers who install them. These countertops pose a serious workplace hazard because they contain silica, a mineral linked to silicosis. Silicosis is potentially deadly lung disease.

Stone countertops that are particularly hazardous to workers in this regard are those made out of processed quartz, which contains as much is 90 percent levels of silica. That is twice the amount of silica found in granite. These countertops are particularly dangerous when workers are cutting them to fit a kitchen, bathroom or another area where they are being installed. During the cutting process, large amounts of silica are released into the air. When workers inhale these particles, it can lead to silicosis, lung cancer and even kidney disease.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been applying increased levels of scrutiny toward silica containing countertops. Recently, OSHA announced new rules that will ultimately reduce the amount of silica that workers are exposed to. During the announcement of the new rules, federal officials and safety professionals reminded workers and employers that silica-containing countertops are dangerous when they are not handled appropriately.

Although the countertops do not pose dangers to homeowners themselves, workers who handle the material are particularly at risk -- especially if they do not have appropriate equipment. As such, employers and workers who use this material on the job must be trained on how to handle, cut and install it in a way that does not put them at risk of silica exposure. Furthermore, New York workers who fear they have contracted silicosis may have strong workers' compensation claims that they can pursue in order to get money to help them pay for their medical care and living expenses in the event of a serious debility.

Source: The New York Times, "Popular Quartz Countertops Pose a Risk to Workers," Barry Meier, accessed April 27, 2016

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