Preventing Silicosis with HEPA filters

Preventing Silicosis with HEPA filters 2

Airblast Australia equipment exceeds the toughest Australian HEPA H14 and provides the maximum protection from dust-related disease.

Silicosis

Silicosis is an left-threatening occupational lung disease caused by prolonged exposure and inhalation of crystalline silica dust.

Silica dust are small particles –100 times smaller than a grain of sand–present in materials containing silica.

Silica is a common occurring element in the earth’s crust formed from a combination of silicon and oxygen atoms. It makes up 75% of all element in the earth’s crust.

Naturally occurring matter e.g. sand, granite, quartz, soil, stone, and clay.
Products e.g. bricks, tiles, pavers, blocks, concrete, glass and mortar.
Cement based materials e.g. fibre-cement sheeting.
Activities like crushing, grinding, drilling, breaking, blasting or cutting any of the above materials releases fine silica dust into the air. When inhaled, they find their way to the lungs where they deeply embed themselves. This leads to scarring and inflammation (usually 10mm wide); inhibiting its’ normal functioning and increasing the risk of silicosis.

Dust containing respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is generated by high-energy processes such as cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, polishing, scabbling and crushing of silica-containing materials.

RCS particles are so small they cannot be seen under ordinary lighting, and stay airborne long after larger particles have settled to the ground – the small particle size means it is easily inhaled deep into the lungs.

RCS is a hazardous chemical. Inhaling RCS can lead to silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death. RCS can also contribute to lung cancer, renal cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Silicosis usually follows exposure to RCS over many years, but extremely high exposures across the short-term can cause it to develop rapidly.

Exposure to RCS has been linked to lung cancer and may also contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

More info: Queensland Government  Construction dust: respirable crystalline silica

PREVENTION

Since silicosis has no cure, the next best option is preventing it from developing in the first place.

Eliminate silica dust in the air. Use of proper ventilation and air filters does just that. According to Workplace Queensland, the acceptable Workplace Exposure Standard for silica dust is 0.1mg/m³ for an average 8 hour shift per 5 working days and shouldn’t exceed that.

The most widely regarded form of prevention within industrial environments is to ensure that relevant material cutting or surface preparation equipment is fitted with HEPA Filters

High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) is a type of air filter. Filters meeting the HEPA standard have many applications, including use in clean rooms for IC fabrication, medical facilities, automobiles, aircraft and homes.

Airblast Australia proudly stocks Blastrac filters which are designed according to the HEPA H14 standard and provide the maximum available protection from harmful dust.

HEPA H14 or HEPA H13? 

Varying standards define what qualifies as a HEPA filter. The two most common standards are H13 and H14.  H13 require that an air filter must remove (from the air that passes through) 99.95% (European Standard) or 99.97% (ASME standard) of particles that have a size greater than or equal to 0.3 µm. H14 HEPA filters remove more dust and therefore are safer.

Airblast Australia equipment exceeds the H13 standard and is rated HEPA H14 – providing you with greater protection.

H14 HEPA filters are designed to remove MORE THAN 99.995% of dust particulates greater than or equal to 0.3 µm.

H14 HEPA filters are used and recommended by Australian industry professionals to ensure workers receive the maximum available protection from preventable industrial dust-related disease

SYMPTOMS

Signs and symptoms of silicosis include: fever, persistent coughing, chest pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, shortness of breath, laboured rapid breathing, darkening and blueing of the skin, and gradual rifts thereafter cracking of the nails.

Silicosis can be classified into 4 groups namely:
1. Simple
2. Accelerated
3. Acute
4. Complicated

Simple silicosis occurs 10-40 years after first exposure to low concentration of silica dust.

Accelerated silicosis occurs 5-10 years after first exposure to high concentration of silica dust. It occurs and progresses faster than simple silicosis.

Acute silicosis develops after a few weeks to 5 years of first exposure to extra high concentration of silica gel. It’s highly fatal and often leads to death. Symptoms include shortening of breath, weight loss, and persistent coughing.

Complicated silicosis develops from complication of normal silicosis by lung diseases like TB and smaller inflammations merging together to 1cm. size or more.

DANGERS OF SILICOSIS

Besides silicosis being fatal, it increases the risk of other diseases like tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. The worst part is it has no cure. Prescriptions are merely taken to alleviate symptoms and prevent further progression.

 

For more Information of the dangers, precautions and symptoms of Silicosis, please visit Workcover Queensland.
“Silica and your Health” Public Health Guidance Notice here.