In the letter from the Engineered Stone Manufacturers Association (AStA World-Wide) dated January 18, 2021, they clarified the following points:
At AStA, as well as in all our associated companies, we take Silicosis very seriously and we deeply regret that there are currently workers who are suffering from Silicosis. As a leading factor in the sector, we are absolutely committed to promoting measures that guarantee the safety and health of workers in the stone cutting and handling sector and, therefore, we have always provided information on these products. In fact, we have been pioneers in the promotion of health and safety information through the affixing of safety labels on the boards, and the delivery of safety sheets and good practice guides for the handling of our materials and stone in general.
The cutting and preparation of materials with silica content is carried out as a common practice in many industries (quartzite, granite, glass, sandstone, slate, clays, brick, cement, ceramics, etc.) and does not cause any damage to the health of the workers who are in contact with them if the appropriate safety equipment is used in the appropriate way.
The letter released by FEDESMAR last December contains misleading and unfortunate information, as it links the manipulation of the quartz agglomerate with the risk of contracting the Silicosis disease, without providing any explanation and inducing us to think of the agglomerates as responsible for this unfortunate occupational disease.
To avoid unwanted confusion, and without losing sight of the seriousness of this occupational disease, the letter should mention that the risk of contracting silicosis is occupational in nature and exists in many industrial sectors. However, silicosis is 100% preventable if one applies the standardized safety means that were published and promoted by different organizations, such as NEPSI, the multisectoral and social dialogue body established by the European Commission for the Protection of the health of workers that handle crystalline silica.
The solution is not to stop using quartz agglomerates or other materials with crystalline silica content that provide great advantages to the sector and society, but to comply with the safety measures corresponding to each process. The safety measures required to cut and handle agglomerated quartz are the same as for cutting and working with any other type of natural or artificial stone, such as porcelain, ceramic, glass, granite, quartzite, sandstone, etc.
Although FEDESMAR intends to induce consumers and kitchen stores to think that the use of ceramic products is the safe alternative, we want to emphasize that this statement is totally inaccurate and leads to greater confusion in the sector, given that the raw material of ceramic materials is also silica and, therefore, its level of risk to the health of workers will also depend on compliance with the preventive safety measures that are carried out during its handling.