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Quartz Dust Health & Safety Ahlsell

Quartz dust

Quartz dust is the most common mineral in the Earth’s crust, and is also one of the most common occupational exposures. Among those at the highest risk of exposure are building and civil engineering workers, as well as those working in steel and metal fabrication. Inhalation of quartz dust increases the risk of COPD, silicosis and cancer.

Since quartz dust is not visible, it is important to check the concentrations in the environment in question before starting work – then assess whether protective equipment should be used, and if so which type.

Active protection against quartz dust

The following provide a good foundation for protecting against quartz dust:

Perform a risk assessment
Investigate the possibilities – is it possible to eliminate or limit the problem?

Personal protective equipment
If the quartz dust cannot be avoided, personal protective equipment with adapted respiratory protection is required.

Check respiratory protection
The user should check the tightness of the respirator before each work shift – be aware that a beard and stubble will significantly reduce the protective performance.

Respiratory protection against quartz dust

Here you will find products that protect you against quartz dust.

What is quartz dust?

Quartz is the most common mineral in the Earth’s crust and is found in many common rocks, such as granite, gneiss and sandstone. Dust is generated when working with the material. Quartz is found in, for example, road dust, stone dust and concrete dust.

Quartz dust contains small particles that can enter your lungs when you inhale the dusty air. The particles are encapsulated in the scar tissue in the lung air sacs, resulting in inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue.

What are the risks of quartz dust?

The smallest particles in quartz dust can penetrate right down into the air sacs of the lungs with the inhaled air and be encapsulated in scar tissue in the air sacs. It causes inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. Inhalation of quartz dust can cause COPD and silicosis (grinder's disease or potter's rot), which is an incurable disease, as well as cancer.

Silicosis will eventually lead to impaired lung function and increased stress on the cardiovascular system. The earliest stage of the disease can be difficult to detect, even on x-rays. Silicosis usually only occurs 10–30 years after exposure to quartz dust began. Over the past ten years, 5–10 people in Sweden have died annually from silicosis (most are over age 65).

The risk of cancer increases when one is exposed to quartz dust and those who already have silicosis have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Some studies have shown that exposure to quartz dust increases the risk of lung cancer by up to 25% if you are also a smoker.

Exposure to quartz dust has also been shown to contribute to the occurrence of secondary diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE).

Which industries/roles are commonly exposed to quartz dust?

Quartz exposure is one of the most common exposures in professional life. An international review of occupational exposures listed quartz as the substance to which the highest proportion of workers were exposed. It has been estimated that more than 3 million workers in Europe are exposed to quartz through their work.

The largest group exposed to quartz dust is construction workers.


Common industries where there is a risk of quartz dust exposure:

  • Mineral extraction
  • Sand, gravel and rock handling
  • Building and construction work
  • Sand collection, e.g. from streets
  • Steel and metal production
  • Concrete and concrete products industry
  • Stone industry
  • Porcelain and ceramics production
  • Glass and abrasives manufacturing
  • Production of paint, plastics and adhesives
  • Foundries
  • Asphalt plants
  • Root cause management indoors
  • Dental laboratories
  • Graveling and sweeping of walkways
  • Cristobalite handling
  • Grinding, drilling or chiseling in concrete, brick, plaster and mortar
  • Paving
  • Demolition

What does the law say?

Risk assessment

Quartz dust is not visible. It is therefore important that, before starting work in environments where there are risks, to check the concentrations and then perform an assessment of whether protective equipment needs to be used and, if so, what equipment is required. The risk assessment must be documented.

If there is no documentation, a penalty fee of SEK 15,000–150,000 will be imposed depending on the number of employees.

Hygienic limit value: Quartz dust, 0.1 mg/m3

Hygienic limit value: Cristobalite (variant of quartz dust), 0.05 mg/m3

Hygienic limit value: Tridymite (variant of quartz dust), 0.05 mg/m3

(Reference: Swedish Work Environment Authority, AFS 2015:2 Quartz – stone dust in the work environment)

How to protect yourself against quartz dust

Perform a risk assessment. Is it possible to eliminate the problem? If not, it may be possible to limit it by choosing equipment that minimizes the spread of dust containing quartz. Or encapsulate so that dust is not spread to employees. Remember to clean routinely. If it is not possible to eliminate or limit sufficiently, personal protective equipment is required.

Respiratory protection

When the results of the risk assessment and the choice of measures show that respiratory protection is needed, the protection must be such as to prevent inhalation of dust containing quartz. The protection must be adapted to

the user.

A half mask with replaceable class P3 filter is an example of respiratory protection that normally provides sufficient protection.


When the work is physically demanding or takes longer than two hours, a fan-fed respirator or a respirator with external air supply should be used.


In order to achieve the intended protective performance, it is important that the user of the respiratory protection has checked the tightness before each work shift. The respiratory protection’s user instructions describe how to check for leaks. It is important that the respiratory protection fits tightly against the face. Beards and stubble significantly reduce the protective performance.

There must be documented procedures for adaptation, control, maintenance and storage of respiratory protection. Employees must be able to understand the procedures, and the procedures must be available at the workplace.

Other risk areas

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