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We, the People need to stop on-the-job silica exposure

Silica dust. You may not have heard from it, but you likely know someone affected by exposure to it, which can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, and other debilitating diseases.

Workers can be exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust through cutting, drilling, grinding, or otherwise disturbing material that might contain silica, such as during construction jobs.

About 1.7 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to silica dust. Public health experts estimate that 280 workers die each year from silicosis—and thousands more develop silicosis as a result of workplace exposures. But perhaps worst of all- the Obama administration knows about the risks of exposure to silica dust, and has been sitting on a workplace standard on silica dust for more than two years as it is under review at the Office of Management and Budget.

This is where you come in. We, the People, need to let the Obama administration know that it is critical to pass this standard in order to protect millions of American workers who come into contact with silica dust. As such, a petition currently is circulating with the White House’s “We the People” petition program calling for the administration to promulgate the rule. We need your signatures- and fast. We need to reach 25,000 signatures by Feb. 11 (a week from today) to elicit a formal response from the White House. Add your signature now.

The current delay in moving ahead with a silica dust standard is just the latest in what is now a 15-year saga of trying to protect workers, even though the dangers of exposure to silica dust and the crippling and fatal lung disease it causes have been known for decades.

A new website is also available from the Center for Construction Research and Training, in conjunction with NIOSH, and it’s a great resource for those who may be exposed to silica dust. lets users select the materials they work with (cement, concrete, brick, etc.) and say what they’re doing with it (mixing, jackhammering, drilling, etc.), and it shares what the risk of silica exposure is and how to find out more. It also has sections on signs and symptoms, screening and treatment, what current regulations are (OSHA, state-level, voluntary), and ways to take action.

Check it out, learn about silica dust and exposure, and please, sign the petition and send it to your contacts.