First appeared in NewsBreak
By Aron Solomon
A recent medical research report highlighted the dangers of working with quartz countertops. Workers who make these countertops are dying of lung disease at a young age due to exposure to silica, a mineral tied to silicosis, a debilitating and potentially deadly lung disease. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by the industry and government regulators.
Quartz countertops are made from processed quartz, a material containing silica levels as high as 90 percent, or twice the amount found in granite. Workers who handle engineered stone can have significant exposure to silica, particularly if they are working without proper equipment. This exposure can lead to silicosis, a lung disease that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain. In severe cases, it can lead to respiratory failure and death.
The risks posed by quartz countertops are receiving new scrutiny after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced long-delayed rules to sharply reduce exposure to silica among workers. When announcing the changes, federal officials and safety experts also reiterated warnings about the silica-related risks posed by the new countertops. It is important that these warnings are taken seriously and that the industry takes steps to protect workers from exposure to silica.
New Jersey personal injury lawyer Michael Epstein summed up what many of us have been thinking since learning about this issue: “It’s shocking that such a critical process issue involving the manufacture of something as common as the countertops in our homes has been allowed to escalate to the point where there are such serious medical issues. It’s a shame that workers have been needlessly injured and killed.”
One state that is actually taking action is California. The state has proposed new regulations requiring employers to monitor the air quality in workplaces where quartz countertops are made and to provide workers with respirators if necessary. These regulations are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to protect workers from the dangers of silica exposure.
The industry also needs to take responsibility for the health and safety of its workers. Companies that make quartz countertops should provide their workers with proper equipment and training to minimize their exposure to silica. They should also monitor the air quality in their workplaces and take steps to reduce silica levels if necessary. The industry should also work with government regulators to develop and implement regulations that protect workers from silica exposure.
It is important to recognize that we, as consumers, also have a role in this issue. While quartz countertops do not pose risks to consumers in our homes, we should be aware of the risks faced by workers who make these countertops. Consumers should ask companies that make quartz countertops about their safety practices and policies, and we should be sure to support only companies that prioritize the health and safety of their workers.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, YouTube, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.