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PUBLIC RISK FROM DUST AND RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA

Low levels reported but demolition and cut-off saws may still be a ‘problem’ 

HSE has published Research Report RR878 – Levels of respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica at construction sites. The report concerns a pilot study to assess the potential for inadvertent exposure of the public to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) from construction activities.

The study assessed the respirable dust (RD) from, demolition, block cutting, road building, general construction activities and city centre air from 13 visits to 7 sites. In total, 48 samples from the construction activities and 11 city centre air samples, for comparison, were collected.

Significant findings

The results obtained for RD and RCS were generally very low. Only 10 % of results (from two sites) for RCS were above 0.01 mg.m-3, which is 10 % of the current Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) for RCS.

The majority of visits showed evidence of some transport of RCS across the site and potentially into public areas. The main crystalline components of the city centre air sample were generally the same as the components of the samples taken at the construction sites.

It is likely that an individual, living in very close proximity (< 50 m) to a very large scale demolition, may obtain a measurable but very low exposure to RCS. However, demolition activities of short duration should not have a significant impact on their health since this is dependent on a long term exposure (approximately 15 – 20 years).

The report concludes:

“The results in this pilot study indicate that dust control may still be a problem with very large-scale demolition activities and with cut-off saws and that these areas may warrant further investigation.”

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