Many people who work in construction and remodeling think that asbestos is largely a thing of the past. They know it can be in old homes and other buildings. They know that you need to take precautions if you’re making repairs or upgrades because it can be in the insulation, flooring and other building materials.
What people often don’t know is that asbestos can still be found in some types of natural stone, like soapstone, that is popular for making countertops because of its appearance and durability. Asbestos can be removed from natural stone before it’s installed. However, for those who work around it in the earlier stages, there is a danger of exposure and serious health issues.
What about engineered stone?
This is also very popular for countertops (as well as outdoor benches and more). Engineered stone makes up about 60% of the materials used in countertops. With engineered stone, there’s a different substance that can pose just as much danger. It’s called silica, and it can be found in large quantities in engineered stone.
People who have worked in jobs that involved grinding, cutting, sanding and installing engineered stone countertops are developing a lung condition called silicosis from the silica inside it. (Silicosis can also be caused by asbestos exposure.) Currently, there’s no cure for silicosis.
What should you know about silicosis?
It can be a debilitating disease. One man who’s still in his 20s told the Los Angeles Times that he now relies on an oxygen tank and is no longer able to work. It’s not just an American problem. One study in Australia found that 20% of stone workers had silicosis.
Because more and more workers are developing this disease after working in this industry, health and safety officials are taking note. However, there are few regulations for employers whose workers are exposed to the dangerous dust that contains silica.
If you are suffering from any debilitating respiratory disease that’s caused by silica, asbestos or other dangerous materials because your employer didn’t provide you with the necessary protective equipment or enforce important safety practices, it’s a good idea to get legal guidance. This may be able to help you get compensation that can help you and your family deal with medical bills and lost wages.