Introduction In 2016 the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) completed a new standard for workplace crystalline silica. We are trying to understand what this will mean outside the U.S.
Methods/current situation On March 24, 2016 OSHA issued a revised silica dust rule setting levels in construction and general industry at 50 ug/m3 for 8 hour workday—1/2 of the 100 ug/m3 previous standard. More information available https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/03/25/2016-04800/occupational-exposure-to-respirable-crystalline-silica. OSHA is now labelling respirable silica a known human carcinogen, as it has been judged by IARC since 1996. In addition to silica being known to cause silicosis, it is now judged to be linked with auto-immune and kidney diseases. The new rule expected to save 600 lives and 900 cases of silicosis annually in U.S.
Results The World Health Organisation (WHO) is leading efforts to document the numbers of silicosis cases worldwide. Although the rates of silicosis have declined in most industrialised nations, they appear to be steady or rising in Asia, Africa, South America and the former Soviet Union. In South Africa, there is a strong effort to control silica dust because it is linked with excess silico-tuberculosis (silicoTB), especially in migrant gold miners. OSHA is likely to be asked by other global regulatory agencies to share their work, though we do not expect the new administration to be very supportive. There may be some collaboration to study nonsilicosis lung diseases, lung cancer and other cancer endpoints in countries such as South Africa, China and Chile. In the Philippines there have not been any published research, but there should be a focus on education of miners and construction workers.
Discussion The new OSHA silica rule may spur other nations to adopt the new 50 ug/m3 standard, to undertake novel research studies, and to offer education to alert workers to silica’s health risks.
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