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Respirable crystalline silica

Respirable crystalline silica

What is respirable crystalline silica?

Silica is a naturally occurring substance found in most rocks, sand and clay. It is therefore present in products such as bricks, mortar and concrete. When these materials are cut, drilled or sanded down, they create dust, some of which is fine enough to reach deep inside the lung. This is called respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

Who is at risk?

Around half a million people in the UK are exposed to silica dust in the course of their work. People working in quarrying, slate works, foundries, potteries, stonemasonry, construction, and industries using silica flour to manufacture goods are most likely to encounter RCS.

Symptoms and conditions

Significant exposure to RCS can cause silicosis (a debilitating hardening or scarring of lung tissue), lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The HSE estimates that around 600 people in Britain die each year from lung cancer caused by exposure to RCS at work.

What your employer should do

Find out about what employers should do to control exposure to RCS and other substances that are hazardous to health.

Silica exposure register

Have you been exposed to RCS at work? Add your name to Prospect's register if you have. We'll keep the information on file and use it if we need to initiate a legal claim on your behalf in the future, or if one of your colleagues needs a witness to their own exposure to RCS. We will only use your data in any legal claim with your express consent.

To add your details to the register you can either:

Repeated exposure to RCS significantly increases the risk to individuals, so once you're on the register, please keep us updated about any further exposure to RCS.

Prospect runs a similar register for members who've been exposed to asbestos.

Find out more