Silicosis Not Just a Health Concern: Worker Unrest and Lawsuits Brewing in the Engineered Stone Countertop Industry

LOS ANGELES, CA – Engineered stone countertops have become increasingly popular in the United States over the past decade. Made from crushed quartz, these countertops offer a wide range of colors and patterns, as well as heat resistance. However, an alarming health risk has come to light regarding the production of these countertops.

A study conducted in California found that these engineered stone countertops often contain high levels of crystalline silica, with some slabs reaching up to 95%. This poses a serious health risk to workers involved in the fabrication process, as inhaling silica dust can lead to a debilitating and potentially deadly lung disease called silicosis.

Dr. Jane Fazio, a specialist in pulmonary critical care at UCLA Medical Center, has reported seeing a concerning number of patients with silicosis caused by exposure to silica dust. The disease has disproportionately affected immigrant Latino workers who work in the industry, leading to emotional and financial burdens on their families.

The impact of silicosis on affected workers has been devastating. One worker, Dennys Williams, received a double lung transplant after being diagnosed with silicosis at the age of 36. Another worker, Arturo Bautista, continues to work despite being diagnosed with the disease. The emotional toll on these workers has been significant, with many expressing the pain and suffering caused by the illness.

As a result of these alarming health concerns, workers are now pursuing legal action against manufacturers of these engineered stone countertops. Their attorney, James Nevin, has accused manufacturers of being aware of the health risks associated with their products, yet failing to take appropriate measures to protect workers.

Some manufacturers have responded by offering products with lower silica content, and California has implemented temporary emergency regulations to safeguard workers. However, the effectiveness of these measures in preventing silicosis remains uncertain.

The issue of silica dust exposure in fabrication shops has also prompted comparisons to Australia, which banned engineered stone due to similar safety concerns. This has raised questions about the adequacy of safety practices in the United States and the protection of workers.

The lack of awareness and protection for workers exposed to silica dust has sparked widespread concern. Joseph Mondragon, who has worked in a stone-cutting shop since the age of 15, expressed his unease with the lack of prior knowledge about the dangers of engineered stone cutting.

The growing awareness of the health risks associated with engineered stone countertops has exposed a troubling reality for workers in the industry. As legal actions unfold and regulatory measures are implemented, the industry faces critical challenges in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its workers.