The health risks associated with silicosis have been well documented since the early 20th century, so it’s with interest that we read that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will soon propose a comprehensive silica health standard.

A report in Occupational Health and Safety Magazine cites OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels telling attendees at the recent American Industrial Hygiene conference that the proposal will be issued in the next few months.

According to OSHA, crystalline silica exposure remains a serious threat to nearly 2 million U.S. workers, including more than 100,000 workers in high risk jobs such as abrasive blasting, foundry work, stonecutting, rock drilling, quarry work and tunneling.

OSHA states:

Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal.”

In the early years of the 21st century, a sharp increase in silica injury claims led many to question whether silica was the next asbestos.

However, in a 2009 report RAND observed that the litigation collapsed soon after the discovery of numerous abuses in the procedures used to diagnose injuries.

This spurred the introduction of medical criteria to determine the validity of claims as well as legal reforms in a number of states.