Health, Safety, and Handling of Silica Fume

As with any dangerous or potentially dangerous chemical, proper safety precautions and measures should be taken before and during the handling of such materials. This begins with learning about the material that is being handled and understanding the risks involved. Also, in the event of any negative health-related situation, being familiar with what to do and having a plan ready can not only lessen the impact but can be the difference between life or death. Knowing the importance of preparation, planning, and response to adverse situations, let’s take a look at what to expect when working with silica fume.

Silica fume is an amorphous, solid powder product, that is gray and color, and odorless. When using silica fume, it is important to avoid inhalation, ingestion, and contact with the skin and eyes. This product can remain on clothing after contact, and care should be taken when removing and washing thoroughly before reuse. Always wash hands, forearms, and face thoroughly after contact, before eating, smoking, using the restroom, and after work.

When handling silica fume, proper protective gear should be used. An approved particulate respirator is recommended, especially in low ventilated areas or unventilated environments. Gloves that are impermeable and resistant to chemicals should be used when handling silica fume, as well as eyewear that is approved and protects against exposure to splashes or dust. Protective clothing should be worn when the specific task requiring the handling of silica fume presents a risk for substantial or extended exposure.

Exposure to silica fume generally takes place via skin contact, through the eyes, and inhalation. If overexposure occurs, the eyes, skin, and respiratory system will typically become aggravated. Overexposure and inhalation can cause long-term effects to the lungs, such as inflammation, irritation, and/or permanent injury, as well as various respiratory illnesses that may follow. Silica fume is amorphous and is not considered a carcinogen.

When any negative physical effects occur from exposure to silica fume, go to a well-ventilated area, or depart with any incapacitated or injured person(s) to a well-ventilated area. If the person that is having adverse effects is not breathing, performing CPR from a qualified individual and/or administering oxygen by a qualified individual should be completed, and immediate medical attention sought. If the skin becomes aggravated or there is overexposure, the area should be washed with soap and water thoroughly for a minimum of 15 minutes, and seek medical attention, if needed. Any contact with eyes should be flushed with water for a minimum of 15 minutes and seek medical attention if needed. If silica fume is ingested, drink water and avoid vomiting, seek immediate medical attention. If any other conditions arise that cause negative physical effects, or you are unsure what may be needed, seek medical attention as necessary.

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