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Dust containing silica is created when fibre cement weatherboards and other fibre cement and masonry products are cut, ground, drilled or otherwise disturbed.
If the silica particles in this dust are small enough (known as respirable crystalline silica or RCS) it can be breathed deep into the lungs and cause serious damage.
In many cases this dust that can be breathed in is not always visible to the naked eye. Tasks which may expose workers to silica dust include:
Breathing in silica dust can cause lung tissue to scar, a condition referred to as silicosis. This scarring results in a reduction of lung function.
The effects of silicosis are generally permanent and may continue to develop even after exposure has stopped. Once silicosis has developed, there can be an increased risk of kidney disease and tuberculosis.
One of the critical factors differentiating Silica dust from other dusts – such as wood dust is the amount that can be safely ingested. Comparatively tiny amounts of silica can be ingested.
Learn more about the dangers or silica dust, along with possible prevention techniques here.