Lung Damage Among Kitchen Countertop Workers
November 11, 2019
Workers who make kitchen and bathroom countertops are falling ill and dying from irreversible lung damage. According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, 18 fabrication workers in four states were diagnosed with silicosis, two of whom died from the disease. Prior to this, only one U.S. case in this industry had been previously reported.
Silicosis is an Incurable Lung Disease
Workers who are exposed to respirable silica dust may develop silicosis, an incurable occupational disease. Silicosis may take years to show symptoms, therefore workers may not be aware that they have the disease until it is in an advanced stage. As scarring in the lungs from the silica dust develops over time, symptoms of silicosis worsen and may include:
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
Currently, there is no cure for silicosis other than a lung transplant, which is not a viable option for most lung cancer patients. It is a progressive, disabling, and often fatal disease.
Workers at Risk
Those who work in industries that expose them to silica dust are at risk for developing silicosis. Mining, sandblasting, cutting, crushing, drilling, grinding, and polishing are all hazardous activities that can lead to silicosis if proper safety precautions are not taken.
The 18 people examined in the CDC report worked mainly with engineered stone, a more durable alternative to natural stone countertops. The epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC expresses concerns that there may be many more unreported cases of workers with this severe, progressive disease.
Findings of the CDC Report
Most of the workers in the report were Hispanic stone fabrication workers under 50 years old. They worked with engineered stone countertops, which, despite containing substantially more silica than natural stone, increased in popularity during the last decade. According to the report, quartz surface imports to the U.S. increased approximately 800 percent between 2010 and 2018.
Silicosis outbreaks have been previously reported in other countries and the government of Queensland, Australia even initiated screening for all at-risk employees in 2018. The 18 patients discussed in the CDC report were from the U.S., namely California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington. Two of the patients had latent tuberculosis infections, four had a concurrent autoimmune disease in addition to silicosis, and two have already died from their lung injuries.
Occupational Silicosis is Preventable
The study’s authors emphasize the importance of implementing effective workplace exposure controls to prevent cases of silicosis and other types of lung disease among workers. Such controls may include:
- Tools equipped with water feeds
- Well-designed local exhaust ventilation
- Respiratory protection
Employers must also comply with the updated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) silica standards for exposure, prevention, monitoring, and medical surveillance. Workers who were diagnosed with occupational silicosis should seek the counsel of a local workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that their rights are protected and that they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Obtain Compensation for Occupational Lung Diseases
If you were diagnosed with silicosis or another occupational disease, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. We can help you obtain the benefits you deserve. Our experienced attorneys proudly represent all types of workers in Philadelphia and throughout the state. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.
Located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.