Eurosil - The European Association of Industrial Silica Producers

Silica and Health

Crystalline silica (SiO2) is ubiquitous in nature, where it forms 12% of the Earth crust. It is the main component of sand on beaches (up to 99%), and the basic material of which most rocks are created and is therefore present in almost all materials extracted from the soil. These materials are used as essential components in the manufacturing of many every day life activities, commodities and products around us such as glass, ceramics, foundry, paints, plastics and construction.

Prolonged and excessive exposure to fine particles of crystalline silica dust (i.e. respirable crystalline silica) may lead to a well known occupational disease called silicosis. Thanks to awareness of the risk and implementation of preventive measures including limit values in all Member States, this disabling disease can be prevented.

With the strong willingness to prevent the risks related to exposure to respirable particles of crystalline silica, the Employers and Employees of 14 sectors producing or using crystalline silica gathered within NEPSI, the European Network on Silica ( have negotiated, signed and are applying an “Agreement on workers’ health protection through the good handling and use of crystalline silica and products containing it” (OJ 2006/C279/02).

For full and up-to-date information on silica, its health effects and the many industry actions please consult the list of Frequently Asked Questions below.

1. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1.1. What is silica, what is crystalline silica and what is quartz?
1.2. Where do we find quartz/silica?
1.3. What are the main uses of silica?
1.4. What is respirable crystalline silica (RCS)?
1.5. Is respirable crystalline silica the same as fine silica dust?
1.6. Where are we exposed to respirable crystalline silica?
1.7. What are the health effects/risks from RCS?
1.8. Does the level and duration of exposure matter?
1.9. What is silicosis?
1.10. Does silicosis still occur and why?
1.11. Why is silica associated with lung cancer?
1.12. What were the conclusions of the IARC 1997 Monograph?
1.13. Are there still unresolved scientific questions regarding (respirable) crystalline silica and its health effects?
1.14. What are the regulatory measures taken at EU level since IARC’s Monograph publication?
1.15. What are the regulatory measures taken by EU Member States?
1.16. What preventive measures are applied by industry?
1.17. What is the Social Dialogue Agreement?
1.18. Does the Social Dialogue Agreement contribute to lowering the silicosis risk?
1.19. What is the status of (Respirable) Crystalline Silica under REACH?
1.20. What is the classification and labelling of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) under the CLP Regulation?

2. Facts and Figures

3. Are you at risk

3.6. Shouldn’t we find alternatives to silica as a precautionary measure?
3.5. I’ve heard that silica dust is bad for your health. Is this true?
3.4. Trucks from a quarry drive through my village. Am I at risk from silica exposure?
3.3. I read that quarries emit particles which affect air quality. Is this true?
3.2. I live near a quarry and sometimes, on windy days, sand is blown into my garden. I’m worried that it’s harming my health.