National Consumers League

NCL support for OSHA proposal to protect workers from silica dust by updating badly outdated standards

April 4, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC – Yesterday at a hearing of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization supported OSHAs proposal to better protect workers from the dangers of silica dust.

NCL cited OSHA data that an estimated 2.2 million American workers are exposed to silica dust every year, with about 1.8 million of those working in the construction industry. NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg testified on the League's history of fighting for worker health and safety - for Women who made luminous watches exposed to toxic radium in the 1920s and workers grinding buttons out of shells and inhaling dust day after day - in the 1913 era. Today's worked are exposed to silica dust when cutting, drilling, or grinding material. Exposure can lead to silicosis, as well as increased susceptibility to lung cancer, kidney disease, and autoimmune disorders. The current silica standards, adopted more than 40 years ago, are badly outdated, new proposed limits would reduce dust exposure for workers and prevent an estimated 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually.

The following may be attributed to Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League:

We applaud OSHA for proposing a new standard limiting exposure to silica, a known carcinogen. As demonstrated by the extensive evidence compiled by the agency, the current standard is badly outdated and does not adequately protect workers from exposure. 

We support a requirement for the employer to post a warning sign at each regulated area. This requirement would be consistent with OSHA’s other health standards that address toxic substances.  The warning sign should be in languages appropriate for all workers on the site. When applicable, the sign should note that respiratory protection and protective clothing are required.

We urge OSHA to prohibit the use of silica sand for abrasive blasting. Many countries have banned the use of silica sand in abrasive blasting including Great Britain, Germany, Sweden and Belgium. These industrialized nations have demonstrated that the abrasive blasting process can done effectively without the use of sand. The U.S. Navy, the Air Force, the U.S. Coast Guard, and twenty-three state Departments of Transportation have banned the use of silica in abrasive blasting.  

OSHA should explicitly state in the regulatory text that discriminating against a worker for exercising their rights is prohibited and will be deemed a violation of the standard.


About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit