Many a homeowner would love a new kitchen, but those trendy composite countertops have been shown to be harmful to workers cutting and grinding them for custom kitchens.
According to recent articles and reporting by National Public Radio, workers in countertop showrooms are increasingly becoming afflicted with silicosis, a lung disease typically seen in miners. This disease is caused by breathing in silica dust in large quantities. Silica dust is abrasive and scars lung tissue, causing reduced breathing capacity and even death. The CDC even released an alert in October of this year about the outbreak of silicosis among engineered stone countertop workers, trying to alert manufacturers of the health hazards.
What is causing the problem?
The materials that make up composite countertops are primarily silica, with a bit of quartz added in to give the countertops the look of marble or granite. Since natural stone countertops are notoriously hard to maintain, more and more consumers have opted in recent years for the easier-to-care-for composite countertops. They also can be significantly cheaper than natural stone like marble or granite.
Further adding to the demand is the fact that a number of home decorating magazines and blogs have championed the use and design of composites over granite and marble—that’s driven consumers to seek out the silica-based tops. Composite stone manufacturers even advertise them as an “eco-friendlier” option than natural stone, despite the negative health affects to workers.
Custom countertop workers are exposed to silica dust when they cut the huge slabs of composite counters into the eventual shapes for custom countertops. The very fine dust lingers in the air, settles on surfaces and is easily breathed into the lungs. Complicating this is the fact that many smaller countertop providers work in tight workshop/showroom spaces, where ventilation might not be adequate.
What can be done?
One way to help eliminate the silica problem lies in air purification. For example, AeraMax Professional air purifiers remove up to 99.97 percent of airborne contaminants from enclosed spaces, effectively and efficiently removing silica dust and other harmful pollutants like germs, bacteria, odors, VOCs and allergens from indoor air.
For countertop companies, placing a number of wall mounted AeraMax Professional air purifiers would drastically reduce the contaminants—and using AeraMax Professional floor stand units in closer proximity to cutting tools would significantly reduce the airborne silica dust, improving worker health.