A microscopic image of silica.


Drilling. Sawing. Grinding. In the midst of construction you don’t imagine thousands of crystals being inhaled. Silica (silicon dioxide) is a basic component of soil, sand, and granite, and up until the mid-1980s was a regularly was regularly used in buildings. Known for its hardness, silica leads to detrimental effects when the micro-sized particles embed inside of your lungs.

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Products to protect against silica

* An occupational exposure limit (OEL) is the generic term for a concentration to a chemical, physical or biological substance to which it is believed a worker can be exposed day after day for a working lifetime without adverse health effects.

Weakness. Shortness of breath. Severe cough. Learn to protect yourself from silicosis.

Dangers of silica

  • Health Concerns

    Silica may become respirable-sized particles when workers chip, cut, drill or grind objects that contain crystalline silica. Even once exposure has ended, respiratory illnesses will continue developing.


    Silicosis is an occupational lung disease caused by chronic inhalation of crystalline silica dust. Lung tissue reacts to inhaled crystalline silica by developing fibrotic nodules and scarring around the trapped silica particles,making breathing difficult as the nodules grow larger.

  • Dangers

    Silicosis is an incurable disease and can lead to death. The damage caused by silica inhalation is permanent, but symptoms can take years to develop.

    Symptoms include:

    • Shortness of breath
    • Severe cough
    • Weakness
    • Fever weight loss, and night sweats
    • Infections


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  • A worker in coveralls who is wearing gloves, a respirator, safety glasses, and a hard hat with ear muffs. He is grinding a piece granite.

    Protection against silica

    All respirator suggestions contained herein are based on data we believe to be reliable, but the accuracy or completeness thereof is not guaranteed. There is no representation, warranty, guarantee or other obligation of 3M or its employees arising out of these suggestions. 3M shall not be liable for any loss and/or damage, whether direct, indirect, incidental, special or consequential arising out the sale, use or misuse of 3M Personal Safety products or the user's inability to use such product. No respirator is capable of preventing all airborne contaminants from entering the breathing zone of the wearer. Respirators can help reduce certain airborne contaminant concentrations in the breathing zone to below the applicable Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL)* for your jurisdiction. Misuse of respirators may result in overexposure to the contaminant and cause sickness or death. Proper respirator selection, training and use are mandatory in order for the wearer to be properly protected. Use and Selection of respirators must be in accordance with the authority having jurisdiction in your country or province. Use of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standard Z94.4 may be used for further guidance in the selection of appropriate respirators or call 3M Technical Service at 1-800-267-4414.

    Most jurisdictions require the use of supplied air respirators when exposed to isocyanates. Please check with your appropriate regulator for details.



1. Controlling Silica Exposures in Construction. OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 3362-05 (2009). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3681.pdf on Sept. 21, 2016
2. Respirable Crystalline Silica. 3M Technical Bulletin. (2009) Retrieved from http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/810308O/respirable-crystalline-silica-technical-bulletin.pdf on Sept. 21, 2016
3. The National Occupational Classification, Government of Canada (2016), Retrieved from https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/silica/gl_silica_5.php on Sept 21, 2016
4. Silicosis – Silica Dust Exposure & Prevention. Silicosis (n.d.). Retrieved from http://silicosis.com/exposure/index.php on Sept. 21, 2016