Lung Disease Cluster Identified In U.S. Stone Workers

Construction Worker Lung Disease

 

Companies Can Prevent Fatal Lung Disease in Stone Fabrication Workers

Thousands of U.S. workers are getting sick from cutting, grinding and polishing slabs of artificial stone used to make kitchen and bathroom countertops. The “engineered stone” is at risk of creating damaging levels of respirable crystalline silica in a workplace. Workers have been linked to cases of death and dangerous and irreversible lung injury in stone fabricators who cut, grind and polish high levels of the mineral silica, and then breathe in silica dust outputs.

An updated report by the Centers for Disease Control Doctors titled Severe Silicosis in Engineered Stone Fabrication Workers was released on September 27, 2019, and highlighted related worker illnesses in California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington, from 2017–2019.

According to the report:

  • Physicians and public health officials have found a cluster of workers exposed to the countertop dust and diagnosed with silicosis in four states.
  • Treating physicians and public health officials say eighteen cases of silicosis, including two fatalities, were reported among stone fabrication workers.
  • Several patients also had autoimmune disease and latent tuberculosis infection.
  • Although silicosis outbreaks have been reported among engineered stone fabrication workers in other countries, only one such case has been reported previously in the United States.
  • Occupational safety experts announced that nearly 100,000 people who work in this industry might be impacted.

The authors of the report determined, “Stone fabrication workers, especially those working with engineered stone, are at risk for silicosis. Given the serious health hazard and the significant number of workers at risk, additional efforts are needed to reduce exposures and improve disease surveillance.”

Stone Workers Deserve to Be Protected

Silicosis is a lung disease that can be progressive and has no treatment other than lung transplant, but there are ways to keep exposure to silica dust below allowable limits and reduce related injuries to workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have identified the use of respirators, computer numerical control (CNC) machines, wet methods, local exhaust ventilation, cleaning with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) vacuums and/or water cleaning systems as preventable silica exposure practices.

Since report of the clusters, congressional lawmakers have demanded that the Department of Labor act swiftly to protect workers who are exposed to silica dust made from the popular “engineered stone” used for countertops in American homes.

Claiming Compensation for Your Work-Related Illness

Levin & Perconti has been behind many of Illinois’ successful personal injury, workplace and disability cases for nearly three decades. These can be complicated cases, but an attorney can identify where a company failed to protect workers and use that information to back up very specific types of work injuries and related illness claims. Anyone who suspects an unsafe exposure to silica dust at their job and experienced a decline in health, may be entitled to compensation.

Every employee in Illinois has the right to a safe workplace, and if not, they may be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois to hold wrongdoers accountable for reckless or negligent behavior.

Also Read: Law For Workers Exposed To Toxic Substances

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