3.6. Shouldn’t we find alternatives to silica as a precautionary measure?
No – the most common form of silica, quartz, is an abundant, natural substance on our planet and we are all exposed to it every day. It makes up 12% of the earth’s crust and, besides being present naturally in our environment, it is also one of the vital raw materials for modern civilisation.
On average, every person in Europe consumes around 400 tonnes of minerals in their lifetime, with most minerals containing quartz. Can you imagine life without houses, workplaces, schools, hospitals, roads, cars, glass, ceramics…?
Even if we did find alternatives to silica, any benefit to health would be doubtful as, in most cases, this natural substance would have to be replaced by a synthetic one manufactured at greater cost, especially in terms of energy and raw materials.
The health hazards associated with silica dust are well known and well managed. The focus is on implementing good practice measures in quarries to minimise the generation of airborne dust, not just for the benefit of workers but also to minimise any impact on the surrounding environment.