California has put on the agenda the tightening of safeguards on Engineered Stone production and processing

Silicosis, commonly known as miner’s lung, is a dreadful occupational disease. Photo: Gumersintorego / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

Topics are respiratory protection and wet processing, that are also important for natural stone

California could become the first U.S. state to strengthen existing regulations for protection against crystalline silica from working engineered stones or quartz composite materials. The background is a new study: at companies producing these artificial stones, there were 52 cases of silicosis in varying degrees of the disease among the employees. 10 of them died, others are seriously ill.

The age of those affected ranged from only 40 to 49 years, and 51 were immigrants from Latin America. The study was published in the well respected Journal of American Medicine (JAMA).

The responsible health authority of the federal state (Occupational Safety and Health Standards, CAL-OSHA) has now initiated a particular process, at the end of which could be tightened regulations around production or processing of the engineered stones: dry-cutting and dry-polishing activities may face stricter guidelines and/or a ban.

Some have even suggested a ban on select products which contain silica is warranted.

There are to be expert meetings on the matter later this week. A decision could be made in 2 to 4 months.

Last Friday (July 28), the Natural Stone Institute (NSI) released a statement against such a ban on artificial stone: “The vast list of many common products that contain silica, including concrete, brick, plaster, glass, and a wide variety of other products, makes it impractical to focus on the product.“

Instead, the NSI focuses on worker protection: “Fortunately, silicosis is completely preventable through the use of well-established industrial hygiene controls.“ Standard measures are dust absorption or wet processing.

At sculpture symposia, participants are sometimes unrecognizable because they protect themselves during work. The photo shows Ana Maria Negară from Romania at the Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium in Riyadh in 2022. Photo: Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium

Our photos of sculpture symposia show how protection can be properly done – there, the participants are very conscious about their health and the work situation.

Dust absorption: Young stonemasons from Austria at their selection for the EuroSkills competition. Photo: Steinzentrum Hallein

A look at modern stonemasonry workshops shows the protection technology available.

In some workplaces, however, and especially in the construction industry, protective measures are neglected because they are inconvenient for workers, are costly, or the people are not informed about the threat.

In this context, the current study from California is particularly dramatic because nearly all of those affected were immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, or other states in Latin America.

Presumably, the number of unreported cases is much higher.

There is a video on Youtube in which one of those affected describes his situation.

Investigations in 2019 and 2020 at stone masonry companies in California had already shown that about 72% of 808 workshops were “likely out of compliance with the existing silica standard,“ according to a TV report.

The issue is urgent and worldwide:
* In Australia, too, a decision on a ban is to be taken this year. A task force had previously adopted its recommendations after 2 years of work;
* in New Zealand, too, great importance is attached to the subject;
* the French natural stone magazine Pierre Actual reported in its January 2023 issue;
* in Spain, the Fedesmar association holds an annual day against silicosis;
* at EU level, there is the NEPSI program to set limits for crystalline silica. It is said that, after measuring the air quality, many stonemasonry companies would have to close down in some regions.

We have linked below to the NSI`s materials about silica protection. Its recommendation for this week’s expert meeting echoes the one given by Australia’s National Dust Disease Taskforce: “Education, monitoring, and enforcement.“

Or, in more detail formulated by the NSI: “Product bans do not address the primary issue, which is adherence to safe cutting/polishing measures, coupled with air monitoring and employee education.“

Journal of American Medicine (JAMA)

Natural Stone Institute:
Safety Certificate



New Zealand

Pierre Actual (French)

Fedesmar (Spanish)

La Federación Española de Asociaciones de Marmolistas (FEDESMAR) promueve por tercer año consecutivo el “DÍA CONTRA LA SILICOSIS”.



Breton from Italy has launched its Bioquartz® material, which, according to the company, does not release hazardous dust when worked. The companny developed Engineered Stones when looking for replacements for stones from abandoned quarries for the restoration of monuments.

(01.08.2023, USA: 08.01.2023)