The Science Behind Quartz Countertops and Silicosis

Quartz countertops have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to their durability, versatility, and stunning appearance. However, beneath the beautiful surface of these countertops lies a hidden danger: silica dust. This fine dust, released during the cutting, polishing, and installation of quartz countertops, poses a serious health risk to workers in the industry.

Did you or a loved one become seriously ill due to silica dust exposure from quartz countertops?  The team at Bailey Javins & Carter LC. is ready to go to work for you! Call our Atlanta office at 678-981-5370 to set up a consultation.

Composition of Quartz Countertops and Silica Dust

Quartz countertops are engineered stone products made from a mixture of natural quartz (usually 90% or more), resins, and pigments. The high quartz content gives these countertops their strength and durability, but it also means that they contain a significant amount of silica, a mineral known to cause respiratory issues when inhaled.

When quartz countertops are cut, polished, or installed, the process generates fine silica dust particles that can easily become airborne. These particles are much smaller than those found in the dust from natural stone countertops like granite or marble, making them more easily inhaled and potentially more dangerous.

  • Quartz countertops can contain up to 90% silica.
  • Cutting and polishing quartz releases fine silica dust particles into the air.
  • Silica dust from quartz is finer and more easily inhaled compared to dust from natural stone countertops.

Inadequacy of Safety Measures in the Countertop Industry

Many workers in the countertop industry rely on safety measures like respirators, masks, wet-cutting methods, and ventilation systems to protect themselves from silica dust exposure. However, these measures are not always adequate.

Respirators and masks, while helpful, may not be entirely effective against the fine silica particles found in quartz dust. These particles can slip through the filters and still be inhaled by workers. Wet cutting methods, which involve using water to suppress dust during the cutting process, can reduce the amount of airborne dust but not eliminate it completely.

Ventilation systems in workshops and fabrication facilities can help remove some of the airborne silica dust, but their effectiveness depends on proper design, maintenance, and use. In poorly designed or maintained workspaces, these systems may not provide sufficient protection.

Furthermore, some workplaces may lack proper safety training and equipment, leaving workers vulnerable to silica dust exposure.

How Silica Dust Affects the Lungs

When silica dust is inhaled, the fine particles can penetrate deep into the lungs, where they become lodged in the lung tissue. The body’s immune system recognizes these particles as foreign invaders and mounts a response, causing inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) in the lungs.

Over time, this scarring can lead to a gradual reduction in lung function and capacity, making it increasingly difficult for affected individuals to breathe. The damage to the lungs also increases the risk of lung infections and other respiratory issues.

  • Silica particles become trapped in lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring.
  • Scarring reduces lung function and capacity over time.
  • Damaged lungs are more susceptible to infections and other respiratory problems.

Pneumoconiosis and Silicosis from Quartz Countertops

Pneumoconiosis is a term used to describe a group of occupational lung diseases caused by the inhalation of dust particles. Silicosis, a specific type of pneumoconiosis, is caused by exposure to silica dust.

Symptoms of silicosis can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Fever

There are three main types of silicosis, depending on the level and duration of exposure:

  • Acute silicosis: Develops after a short period of intense exposure to high levels of silica dust.
  • Chronic silicosis: Occurs after long-term exposure (10+ years) to lower levels of silica dust.
  • Accelerated silicosis: Develops within 5-10 years of initial exposure to moderate to high levels of silica dust.

Other occupational lung diseases, such as black lung (coal workers’ pneumoconiosis) and asbestosis (caused by asbestos exposure), share similar characteristics with silicosis, as they are all caused by the inhalation of harmful dust particles.

Legal Options for Workers Exposed to Silica Dust from Quartz Countertops

Workers who have developed silicosis or other respiratory illnesses due to silica dust exposure from quartz countertops have several legal options to consider.

Workers’ Compensation

In most cases, workers diagnosed with silicosis can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can help cover medical expenses, lost wages, and disability related to the illness. However, obtaining adequate compensation through workers’ comp can be challenging, and the benefits may not fully address the long-term impact of the disease.

Litigation against Manufacturers

Quartz countertop manufacturers have a duty to warn about potential hazards associated with their products and to provide adequate safety instructions and equipment. In some cases, manufacturers may be held liable for failing to meet these obligations, leading to worker illness and injury. These cases usually argue that manufacturers knew or should have known about the risks of silica dust exposure but failed to adequately warn or protect those who handle this material.

Third-Party Lawsuits

In some situations, subcontractors or other entities on a construction site may be responsible for ensuring worker safety. If these third parties fail to implement proper safety measures or provide necessary training, they may be held liable for worker illnesses related to silica dust exposure.

Regardless of the specific legal avenue pursued, it is essential for affected workers to seek advice from experienced attorneys specializing in occupational illness cases. These professionals can help navigate the complex legal landscape and work to secure the compensation deserved.

Start Your Quartz Countertop Silicosis Lawsuit Today with Bailey Javins & Carter, LC.

The science behind quartz countertops and silicosis reveals a troubling reality: the very materials that make these countertops so attractive and durable also pose a serious health risk to the workers who fabricate and install them. Silica dust, released during the cutting and polishing of quartz countertops, can cause devastating lung diseases like silicosis when inhaled.

Existing safety measures, such as respirators, wet-cutting methods, and ventilation systems, are not always adequate to protect workers from the dangers of silica dust exposure. As a result, many workers in the countertop industry are at risk of developing life-altering respiratory illnesses.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with silicosis or another respiratory illness due to silica dust exposure from quartz countertops, it is crucial to seek medical attention and legal guidance. The team at Bailey Javins & Carter is here to help you understand your legal options and work to secure the compensation you deserve.

Call us at 678-981-5370 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation and case review with a member of our legal team.