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Dangers of silica exposure in Illinois

Illinois workers whose jobs involve the construction or installation of stone countertops may be unaware of the risks associated with exposure to crystalline silica. These fine particles can be inhaled, and they are found in the sand, granite, sandstone, quartzite and other stones used in the construction of stone countertops.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have jointly released a statement regarding the potential hazards of silica exposure. The announcement came after reports of 25 workers in Israel and 46 workers in Spain having contracted silicosis, which is progressive and sometimes fatal.

Silicosis symptoms may include having shortness of breath, fatigue and cough. Those exposed have an increased chance of developing kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The agencies recommend that employers monitor air quality for silica levels, take measures to control exposure to dust and provide respiratory equipment to workers. Employers should also provide safety training for workers regarding the dangers posed by crystalline silica inhalation, and workers should always wear their provided respiratory equipment while working with the stone and sand.

Like a workplace injury, a workplace illness may lead to permanent disability or death. People who contract a workplace illness are also eligible for benefits when they file a claim for workers' compensation. Proving that the illness originated in the workplace can sometimes be difficult, however. If an employer or the employer's insurance carrier disputes or denies the claim, the worker will need to be prepared with thorough medical documentation showing that the illness was contracted due to the working environment. People who have contracted a disease as a result of their occupation may thus want to seek the assistance of an attorney throughout the process.

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