APHA celebrates OSHA silica rule to protect workers from longtime health hazard
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Washington, D.C., March 24, 2016 — The American Public Health Association applauds the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration for finalizing a rule today to reduce occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. This rule protects an estimated 2.2 million U.S. workers whose jobs expose them to silica, a carcinogen that leads to harmful and often deadly lung diseases, chronic renal diseases and autoimmune disorders.
“APHA has long championed measures to reduce the significant toll silica takes on our workforce every day,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “We know that silicosis alone kills 200 workers and harms 7,300 more each year. This is a life-saving public health victory, and we thank the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for making it happen.”
The new OSHA limit of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air — along with other measures to control and protect against silica — improves safety in a broad range of workplaces, including construction, foundries, glass manufacturing, brick-making facilities and at hydraulic fracking sites.
Members of APHA have been engaged in efforts to reduce illness and deaths from silica exposure for nearly 50 years. APHA’s Occupational Health and Safety Section developed a policy statement to support silica standards and helped draft the Association’s 2013 comments and verbal testimony to support the new rule.
“This is enormously good news for public health,” said APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section member Rosemary Sokas, MD, MOH, chair of the department of Human Science at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, who testified at public hearings before the rule’s passage. “Although deaths from acute silicosis have declined since the 1930s, they unfortunately occur to this day, as do illness and death from chronic silicosis, silicotuberculosis, lung cancer, and other diseases we have only recently confirmed to be caused by exposure. The OSHA silica standard, if adequately enforced, should also be a force for reducing health disparities, since occupational silica exposure disproportionately impacts low income, African American and Latino workers.”
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