In the realm of architecture, engineered quartz is a material that is often used for a variety of structures, design elements, and features. Working with it is various ways generates dust that can be problematic. In this article we are going to explore the concept of quartz dust. Along the way, we will see what problems result from shop dust caused by quartz. We'll also examine what shop activities cause quartz dust. Finally, we will briefly consider what can be done to control shop dust from quartz.
Shop Dust Caused by Quartz
Is quartz dust even an issue in fabrication shops? The answer depends on a number of factors. One factor is whether the shop works with quartz. This may sound like an obvious statement, but consider that there are some people that refer to many engineered materials as quartz. Thus, there is a need to distinguish engineered quartz from other types of materials. A fabricator may work with granite, marble, quartzite, and other materials that are not actually quartz, but another material altogether.
Another factor that plays a role in a fabrication shop's consideration of quartz dust is whether there are processes being utilized in dry environments. Dry cutting, dry polishing, and dry grinding are all tasks that fab shops may employ. In those cases there may be a need for concern regarding quartz dust. But why is there even a need to consider quartz dust in certain environments?
Problems With Dust From Quartz
Given that some fabrication shops have one or more reasons for considering whether dust from quartz may be a problem, it is good for us to explore what problems stem from quartz dust if not managed.
Many of the problems that are derived from quartz dust are related to health issues that result from breathing quartz dust. The reason for this is that quartz dust contains respirable crystalline silica. This type of silica is linked with respiratory health issues. Some of these health problems include:
- Kidney Disease
- Lung Disease
- Lung Cancer
Because of the aforementioned potential health issues related to quartz dust as well as other harmful construction dust, OSHA guidelines regarding silica from construction mention some practices that may be employed to cope with the potential risks associated with quartz dust. Before we look at how to cope with or manage quartz dust, let's see what tasks generate dust containing respirable crystalline silica.
Causes of Quartz Dust
In a fabrication shop there are a number of tasks that have the potential for generating dust from engineered quartz. These operations exist throughout the fabrication process and are not isolated to any one piece of equipment. Let's look briefly at some quartz fabrication operations that produce dust containing silica.
The first task we will look at in quartz fabrication which can produce silica dust is cutting. Quartz is a very hard engineered stone. As such, it requires blades that are designed to cut hard materials. There are long lasting quartz blades and there are economy quartz blades used for making cuts. No matter which blades you choose they are designed to remove stone from the quartz slab. While wet cutting does not create quartz dust at the time of the cut, it does create particles that when dried out over time may become airborne and become a respiratory hazard. So, whether quartz fabrication shops make wet cuts or dry cuts, the potential exists for quartz dust containing silica.
Grinding Quartz Countertops
In addition to cutting, quartz fab shops do quite a bit of grinding, shaping, and milling. These operations also generate particles that may be airborne at one point. If a fabricator is using an angle grinder to fit a cutout to a specific sink, the grinding and shaping of the cutout might be performed either wet or dry. If dry, dust will be generated at the point where the tool is grinding the stone. If wet, the same situation as was mentioned above will be present. Namely the removed particles will be potential contaminates when the water dries.
Dry Polishing quartz Surfaces
The last task we will look at in this consideration of quartz dust generated in a fabrication shop is polishing. Adding a polished finish to a quartz countertop is common for stone professionals. Some shops use wet polishing for this and others use dry polishing. Additionally, there are times when wet polishing is not practical. For example, when the surface is inside a person's home. In these cases, dry polishing pads may be the solution.
Whether the task is wet polishing or dry polishing, the particles will, as they do with other tasks, eventually dry out and have the potential to be airborne.
Controlling Quartz Dust
Since quartz dust has the potential to be problematic and there are so many operations within a fabrication shop that generate quartz dust, it is important to consider how to control dust. Controlling quartz dust is done using various methods. Fabricators use one or more of these methods to manage the exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Let's look at these techniques now.
Wet Cutting & Wastewater Management
One of the ways fabrication shops control quartz dust is by using wet environments to cut, grind, and polish slabs. By using water with the tools, the dust is eliminated at the time of processing. Having a wastewater plant to manage the particles controls them so they do not get stirred up after the water is gone. Filtering the slurry that the tools produce and recycling the water from the shop also reduces expenses. This boosts profits and yields environmental benefits as well.
Another way that quartz shops control dust from quartz is by using machines such as collectors for construction dust particles. Using dry dust collectors, fab shops are able to filter the dust from quartz operations and, after it is clean, return the air back to the work environment. These dust control systems allow for workstations to be safer since the draft carries quartz dust away from the area.
Dust extraction systems also are used by stone professionals to capture the dust just as the tool removes the particles from the stone. Quartz dust extraction equipment is sold as a portable dust extractor, or as an extraction arm that attaches to a larger dust collection machine.
When it comes to quartz dust, controlling it is an important part of the fabrication process. As we have seen, the potential for harmful particles to be inhaled by workers and/or others in the area where the work is being done exists. By utilizing one or more of the dust management techniques mentioned above, the shop provides a safer work environment by reducing the dust and therefore alleviating the workers from exposure to harmful particles.