It is estimated that around 5 million workers in the European Union are exposed to crystalline silica. The majority of these people are either employed in the construction sector or in making products used in construction such as bricks, glass or cement. The people employed in these sectors are mostly in small companies – employing fewer than 10 people.
Silica is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos. As a very fine airborne dust, prolonged exposure can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases. Silica dust is classified as Group 1 carcinogen by the IARC, meaning they are seen as a definite cause of cancer in humans.