Artificial stone, called engineered stone, is widely used in bathroom and kitchen countertops across the United States. Employees who work with countertops recently reported a lung disease breakout.
The engineered stone contains extremely high levels of silica compared to granite and marble. Inhaling the dust that contains silica can lead to silicosis. Silicosis is a progressive lung disease that has no treatment or cure. The only way a person can recover from silicosis is if they receive a lung transplant.
Now, 18 individuals who worked with engineered stone have come forward with silicosis, including two that died from the disease. The employees with silicosis worked for countertop companies in California, Colorado, Washington and Texas.
One worker’s experience
A 37-year-old man who worked for a countertop manufacturing company for years spoke out about his silicosis diagnosis. This man is one of six employees from the same company that were diagnosed with silicosis. Two of the six died last year.
The 37-year-old says he is constantly afraid that he may die. He explains that it is a continuous struggle, he feels worse every day, he does not believe he will get better. Of those affected, nearly all of them were Hispanic men in their thirties.
What can employers do?
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According to a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration employee, the injury and deaths could be avoided. One employer was able to reduce the silica levels significantly by cutting the engineered stone while it is wet, using a machine that scrubs and vacuums the dust, and purchasing a new air ventilation system.
The machinery is a small price to pay for the safety of all employees.
If a work-related injury has affected you, you may want to reach out to a legal expert. It is important for workers to understand this risk so they can do what they believe is best for their health and their family.