Eurosil - The European Association of Industrial Silica Producers

3.5. I’ve heard that silica dust is bad for your health. Is this true?

Silica dust is only hazardous when people inhale high quantities over a certain period of time. There is no risk to people who live near to quarries because even if dust is generated in quarrying and mineral processing activities levels fall rapidly due to settlement and dispersion. Concentrations outside the quarry boundary are too low to be measured.

The only people whose health may be at risk from silica dust are workers in industrial processes where silica products are produced or handled and where lots of airborne silica dust is generated. This dust needs to be very fine to cause any health risk – in fact it needs to be so fine that the particles of concern cannot be seen with the naked eye. If this dust is not properly controlled then workers may be at risk of lung disease, although it takes years of daily exposure at high levels before the risk becomes significant.

These workplace situations are regulated under health and safety law and there are strict limits on personal exposure which must not be exceeded. Compliance with good practice in silica dust control and with regulatory exposure limits will help to minimise any health risks.