EOH Professor David Michaels Briefs Congress on New Silica Dust Rule

Professor David Michaels briefed congressional members and staff about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new silica dust rule at a briefing held on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Longworth House Office Building.  The briefing was sponsored by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

Michaels, who recently returned to GW, led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from 2009 to 2016.  The new rule was finalized under his leadership and reflects new information on the health effects of exposure to silica dust, a substance to which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates at least 1.7 million workers are exposed.  "The previous exposure limits were outdated and did not adequately protect workers," Michaels commented when introducing the new rule. 

Occupational exposure to silica dust occurs when workers cut, saw, drill, and crush concrete, brick, ceramic tiles, rock, and stone products. Occupational exposure also occurs in operations that process or use large quantities of sand, such as foundries and the glass, pottery and concrete products industries. As OSHA’s website explains, silica dust is hazardous when very small (respirable) particles are inhaled. These respirable dust particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause disabling and, sometimes, fatal lung diseases. These include silicosis and lung cancer, as well as kidney disease.

The event also served as a case study of the importance of worker health and safety.  A video of the event is available on the AIHA's website.