Crystalline Silica – Immediate action could save countless lives

How Kitchen Worktops and Stone-Washed Jeans are increasingly a matter of life and death. Immediate action could save countless lives

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection and the UK’s leading scientific society on workplace health exposures has written to MPs to urge them to take immediate action to prevent avoidable deaths and illness caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

This is the dust created by cutting stone and stone-based substances, including artificial stone, which is widely used for kitchen worktops, and by other processes, such as distressing jeans. An estimated 2.2 million workers could be at risk of aggressive respiratory diseases, including silicosis, cancer and the risk of tuberculosis, in the construction industry alone.

Six months ago, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on respiratory health published the Silica – the next asbestos” report highlighting the immediate and continuing threat to British workers of poor health protection in the workplace. BOHS contributed to the Report and is now seeking action to follow up on recommendations by the Parliamentary Group.

“The report highlighted a problem that has been known about for many years” said Kelvin Williams, President of the Society. “Every year, millions of pounds are spent on treatment and sickness benefits, because people have been exposed to silica dust. Much of this is entirely preventable. Prevention is undoubtedly cheaper, easier and better than trying to cure these illnesses.”

Kevin Bampton, the Chief Executive of BOHS and a former of Public Law said: “Brexit is likely to dominate the Parliamentary agenda, but this is literally life and death”.

Other experts have gone even further in demanding that silica-creating industrial processes should be banned altogether. In a special editorial in the journal, CHEST, academics declare, “In this new millennium, fashionably stressed denim jeans and colourful countertops are not worth the price paid by these workers.”

The Society also urges DIYers to make sure they use effective and properly fitting breathing protection. As more and more people use angle grinders and cut stone tiles themselves, but don’t always wear proper breathing protection that can filter out the tiny particles of silica that cause real harm. The ubiquitous COVID-19 face mask just won’t cut it. The Society points out that while It may save a few pounds in not buying the right protective equipment, it could potentially cost your health and even your life.


The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) is a science-led, charitable body and the UK’s leading authority that works to protect everyone’s right to a healthy working environment. Founded in 1953, it’s one of the largest occupational hygiene societies in Europe and the only professional society representing qualified occupational hygienists in the UK.  BOHS provides internationally recognised qualifications, scientific conferences, and membership services, and has over 1800 members across 57 countries and numerous fields of worker health.

For further information, please contact:

Rita Grigoriadou, Communications and Policy Officer, BOHS

M: + 44 (0) 7496 993855


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