Silica (Quartiz- Respirable)
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Quartz is a solid-like component composed of the mineral dusts which occur naturally within the earth surface. It is noted that humans are affected by the substance in the course of conducting their respective occupational activities which involve among others movement of earth material as well as unnecessary distribution of silica-rich products. Furthermore, the environmental exposure of disturbed silica dusts occurs in the course of natural and other agricultural occupational activities. The effects of Respirable quartz are perceived as having affected human bodies since the dusts are deposited in the lungs. This deposition leads to the inducing of cellular-like inflammation in the vivo. Therefore, this paper tries to examine the effects of the Respirable quartz amongst human beings and the immediate remedies needed to contain the situation as a whole (Burns et al.298-305).
Identity Characteristics of Silica
Silica is assumes either a crystalline or non-crystalline amorphous form. Notably, crystalline silica may be appearing in more than one form which is highly dependent on the immediate orientation structure of the tetrahedra. The most natural appearances of silica are cristobalite, coesite and stishovite (Burns et al.305-307). However, the chemical occurs as the crystalline silica quartz due to the different industrial processes like ceramics manufacture as well silicon carbide processes.
Respirable silica quartz is colorless and odorless in nature. The chemical also appears as a non-combustible solid-like component consisting of many forms of mineral dusts. The solid is insoluble in water. Upon grinding and hence reduction of its surface area, the mineral component is found to be rich in both Si and Si-O radicals which are formed on the edges of the mineral surface (Cowie 260).
In analyzing the mineral component, its dust particles size is established in respect to their immediate diameter. This characteristic of the mineral dust is perceived to be significant in the process of establishing whether the mineral particles are Respirable or not. The dusts are measured by conducting counts of the entire mass of minerals collected on any given filter. The expected detection limit for quartz in any given Respirable quartz stands at 0.005mg using X-ray powder diffraction measurement methodology (Cowie 1461).
Environmental Levels and Human Exposure to Respirable Quartz
Emission of Respirable quartz to the immediate working environment occurs in form of particulate emissions. The US EPA’s Inhalable Particulate Network has been on the forefront providing given sets of data. These data are attributed to quartz concentrations collected from high-volumes samples of disturbed aerosols within the 25 cities across the United States. The study noted that higher concentrations of the component were recorded in 10 US cities whose particles ranged between 0g/m3 and 15.8g/m3 (Ahlman et al. 604-607).
Within an occupational environment, the Respirable quartz is identified by each and every mineral deposit found within the industry. Thus, research study is significantly conducted on the levels of dusts emitted in the ambient air in order to determine the levels of quartz exposures amongst the workers. In a research study conducted by the compliance officers for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it was found out that within the sample of 255 industries about 48 % of them had been operating over and above the required average exposure. It should be noted that Respirable quartz levels are determined at an exceeding level of about 0.1mg/m3 for most of the industries across the globe. These industries include both metal and non-metal industries as well as coal mining industries (Cowie 1460-1461).
Effects of the Chemical on Human Workers
There have been numerous effects associated with exposure to silica in the course of conducting occupational activities by workers. These effects are as a result of exposure to quartz. The effects are distributed between auto-immune diseases and immunological disorders amongst the workers. Notably, there have been epidemiological studies conducted in order to ascertain the exposure to quartz as being dependent amongst occupational groups. Most of the aforementioned studies have been provided on their immediate effects of silicosis level of mortality. Silicosis, in its nature, is a fibrotic type of lung malfunction that is largely associated with inhalation of depository Respirable crystalline silica. There are three types of this malfunction that an occupational worker is likely to suffer depending with their respective immediate level of concentration of the Respirable quartz (Cowie 261).
These diseases are chronic silicosis, which thrives in workers body for more than ten years given that it is caused by low concentration of the chemical. Second, there is the accelerated form of silicosis which develops after a period of between five to ten years after its initial exposure to the chemical concentration. Third, there is the acute silicosis which develops after a period between few weeks to 4 years. This type of silicosis is deemed riskier since it is caused by vast concentration of Respirable silica quartz. It is prominent in such industries operating under high silica particles and dust as rock drilling industries and quartz- mining industries.
The exposure to Respirable silica quartz causes pulmonary tuberculosis as well as other related infections. The association between silicosis and tuberculosis has been established in a study conducted amongst the silicotics amongst the US industries in the period between 1979 and 1991. These silicotics study postulated that exposure to high levels of quartz particles increases the chances of developing tuberculosis. This is evidenced by the 25 Danish workers who had been employed for a period of 25 years within a foundry industry. In yet another research study, it was found that there were 13 cases of tuberculosis amongst a sample of 428 Swedish iron workers (Cowie 261-262).
Lung cancer is also a disease that is purported to result from high exposures to quartz dusts. Numerous epidemiological studies have been conducted to establish the relationship between silica exposure and the imminent attacks of lung cancer amongst industry workers. These epidemiological studies have been conducted amongst the US gold miners, Danish stone workers as well as Italian refractory brick workers. The result indicates that there is a positive relationship between silica exposure and lung cancer amongst most of these workers. The level of the effect is determined by the total accumulation of exposure to the Respirable quartz, the approximate duration of the aforementioned level of exposure, and the period taken to conduct follow-ups after being diagnosed with silicosis symptoms (Amandus et al. 67-69).
Respirable quartz also causes auto-immune related infections. Amongst workers, the level of immune activation in respect to the length of time one gets exposed to silica causes such ailments as polyarthritis, fibrositis as well as rheumatoid arthritis. This is caused by the immediate generation of fibrogenic types of proteins which results to immense activation of the immune system beyond its usage-limit within a workers body (Cowie 262).
Consequently, persistent exposure to Respirable silica also causes renal diseases. The recent epidemiological studies conducted have established that there is a positive relationship between occupational exposure to quartz dusts and renal diseases as well as other renal alterations.
Types of Control to be Instituted
After numerous genotoxicity tests of quartz were conducted it was found out that continual inflammations as well as proliferation capacities were highly associated with tumor response-mechanism amongst rats. Thus, it cannot be assumed that there is a safe limit of exposure to silica since the epidemiological studies have postulated the evidence of association between lung cancer and silicosis. Furthermore, researches have also stipulated that there is a positive relationship between silicosis and tuberculosis amongst the individual-workers. Therefore, it is fair to indicate that the occupational exposure to silica dusts and particles should be eliminated entirely in order to reduce chances of ill-health matters.
To sum up, it is fair to postulate that there is a significant correlation between Respirable quartz and the different types of ailments that have been witnessed amongst workers. There have been positive forms of relationships which develop between silicosis and tuberculosis, lung cancer and renal diseases. Given the fact that there is no safe concentration of occupational exposure to silica, epidemiological studies have encouraged industries to reduce the levels of silica dusts concentration in the ambience in order to minimize the chances of workers being diagnosed by the aforementioned diseases.
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