Dr Shezad Malik Law Firm has offices based in Fort Worth and Dallas and represents people who have suffered catastrophic and serious personal injuries including wrongful death, caused by the negligence or recklessness of others. We specialize in Personal Injury trial litigation and focus our energy and efforts on those we represent.

Silicosis and Quartz

Silicosis and Quartz. I am going to explain the ubiquitous dangers of Silica and the increasing popularity of home stone countertops. I will be focusing on the debilitating effects of Silicosis lung disease and its catastrophic effects on stone workers.

Silicosis and Quartz countertops

Silicosis and Quartz countertops. Injured? Call Dr. Shezad Malik at 214-390-3189

Sales of engineered quartz stone countertops have risen more than 600% in the U.S. in the last 10 years. The popularity of quartz as a countertop material is due the the aggressive marketing campaign. Quartz is marketed as a more durable material more versatile and less maintenance than the natural stone alternatives.

Quartz countertops have exploded in popularity over the past few years, but medical research suggests that the stone material is a deadly lung injury risk to the workers who process and make it.

Engineered stone workers are at risk of developing silicosis, a severe and incurable lung disease. The risk of silicosis from artificial stone was first identified in Israel in 2012. The first case of silicosis and quartz was linked to engineered stone in the US and was identified in Texas in 2015. 

Engineered stone is a quartz-based composite material that can contain more than 90% crystalline silica. This is different from natural stone, like granite, which contains about 30% silica. The high silica content in engineered stone leads to an accelerated form of silicosis.

Silica dust released into the air
The process of cutting, grinding, drilling, or shaping engineered stone before installation releases silica dust into the air. When silica dust enters the lungs, it causes inflammation and scarring in the lung tissue, reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. Prolonged exposure to this dust can cause silicosis. Symptoms of silicosis include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
Workers exposed to airborne crystalline silica also have an increased risk of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis, and kidney disease. 

According to a recent report in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, the study identified 52 cases of irreversible, life-threatening lung disease among workers in California who made quartz slabs. Ten of those workers died, and three received lung transplants.

What are Quartz Countertops made of?

Engineered quartz stone for countertops is made through a combination of natural quartz crystals and synthetic materials. The process involves several steps to transform raw materials into the durable, non-porous surfaces that are widely used in kitchens and bathrooms. Here’s an overview of how engineered quartz countertops are made:

1. Raw Material Selection

Quartz Crystals. The main ingredient is natural quartz, which is one of the hardest minerals found in the Earth’s crust. Manufacturers use about 90-95% ground quartz.
Resins and Polymers. These are used as binding agents to hold the quartz crystals together. They make up about 5-10% of the countertop material, providing flexibility and preventing cracks.
Pigments and Additives. To achieve a wide range of colors and patterns, pigments are added. Some manufacturers may also include materials like recycled glass or metallic flecks for special effects.

2. Mixing

The quartz crystals are ground into a dust or aggregate. This quartz dust is then mixed thoroughly with the resin, pigments, and any other additives in a mixer. The goal is to ensure that the color and materials are evenly distributed throughout the mix.

3. Molding

The mixture is then poured into molds. These molds can be shaped to the desired size and thickness of the countertop slabs. The molds ensure that the final product is uniform and meets specific size specifications.

4. Pressing and Vibrating

The mixture in the mold is then compacted under very high pressure, often with the help of a vacuum, which helps to remove any air pockets and ensures a dense, non-porous material. Vibratory motion may be applied to further compact the material and ensure that the mixture is evenly distributed.

5. Curing

Once compacted, the slabs are moved to a curing oven where they are heated to a specific temperature. This process causes the resin to polymerize and bind the quartz crystals together into a solid slab.

6. Cooling

After curing, the slabs are cooled down to room temperature.

7. Polishing

The cooled slabs are then gauged, calibrated, and polished to the desired finish, ranging from matte to glossy. This step determines the final texture and look of the countertop.

8. Fabrication

Finally, the slabs are ready to be cut to specific dimensions based on customer orders, with cutouts made for sinks, faucets, and other fixtures. Edges are shaped and finished according to customer preferences.

This manufacturing process allows for the production of engineered quartz countertops that are durable, stain-resistant, and available in a wide variety of designs, making them a popular choice for both residential and commercial applications.

Silicosis and Quartz

Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling microscopic bits of silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock, and mineral ores such as quartz. It is a form of pneumoconiosis, which refers to a group of lung diseases caused by the inhalation of certain dusts that can damage the lungs. Silicosis is particularly associated with industries and activities that generate airborne silica dust, such as rock and mineral mining, construction (especially cutting, drilling, or grinding concrete, stone, or brick), foundry work, and sandblasting.

According to medical experts, silicosis is an incurable disease. There’s no treatment for it. You can’t get the silica out of anybody’s lungs and once it’s there, it’s going to stay there, and the fibrosis can continue to occur, even if you don’t get any more exposure.

The new study estimated that 100,000 workers in the U.S. are potentially at risk of silicosis due to exposure to silica dust.

High Silica content in Quartz countertop material

Silica typically makes up less than 30% of natural stones like marble or granite, quartz contains around 90% or more.

According to one industrial hygienist, with the introduction of engineered stone, or quartz countertops, the exposure levels increase astronomically,and it’s not just the amount of silica dust that’s getting into their lungs, but it’s also the size of it that is causing harm as well.

Rising Silicosis and Quartz cases in California

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 18 cases of silicosis among workers in the stone fabrication industry across four U.S. states.

The new study confirms a rise in silicosis among quartz fabricators in California. Just eight of the 52 cases it describes had been reported previously, according to an accompanying editorial.

The workers in the study who got sick were mostly younger men — around age 45 — who had been in the industry for about 15 years. The majority were diagnosed from 2019 to 2022.

In 2019 and 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health took air samples from 47 stone fabrication worksites and found that 51% of them and 25% of the employees had silica dust exposure levels above the maximum limit — 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour workday.

For people who already have quartz countertops or tables in their homes, the experts said, there is no risk of inhaling silica dust except during the installation process — and even then, a one-time exposure is unlikely to pose a hazard.

Silicosis Injury?

Filing a Silicosis lawsuit can be a complex process, involving several steps to ensure that those affected by exposure to silica dust receive compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, loss of income, and other damages. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with silicosis and is considering legal action, contact the Dr. Shezad Malik Law Firm at 214-390-3189 for further information.

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