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Inspectors To Keep Focus On Respiratory Health

Jan 17, 2003 | Arizona Daily Star

Occupational safety inspectors are paying more attention to how dangerous dust affects workers' health.

Respiratory health was a key focus of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year, and will remain a focus this year, said Mark Norton, the agency's assistant director for Arizona. Respiratory-health problems can take decades to appear, so health officials are just now realizing the risk, Norton said.

Last year OSHA fined two local companies for exposing workers to crystalline silica, or sand used to make glass and ceramic products.

Thirstystone Resources was fined $1,225 for failing to write and implement a respiratory-protection program for workers who are required to wear respirators. Conway Tile was fined $1,750 for a missing safety plan and for not giving respirators to workers who were exposed to silica 12 times the permissible levels.

Exposure also can happen at construction sites while workers break up rock, concrete and brick.

More than 1 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica, according to OSHA, and each year more than 250 die from silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust.

The disease is completely preventable by limiting exposure using masks and good ventilation.

This year, local inspectors will focus on isocyanates, one of two main ingredients in polyurethane coatings found in truck bed liners, foam in furniture, insulation, shoes and glues.

Exposure to the chemical causes skin irritation, asthma and other breathing problems. The chemical also may cause cancer.

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