Granite quarries produce massive amounts of dust and increased levels of radon gas. Both have been linked to incidence of lung cancers, including silicosis and mesothelioma. Regulations regarding the amounts of dust and gas emitted from granite quarries have been enacted in many countries, beginning in the 1970s. Since that time, there have been significant decreases in the numbers of lung cancer cases among quarry workers.
Granite Quarries and Radon Gas
According to the E.P.A., exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. A study published in the April 2008 issue of "Radiation Protection Dosimetry" investigated the levels of radon gas in buildings near a granite quarry and compared them to other buildings situated at various distances. Not surprisingly, the researchers found the radon gas was detected in areas close to granite quarries and correlated these higher concentrations to mining activities and the type of bedrock in granite quarries.
Incidence of Lung Cancer
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a report in May, 2004, linking an increased frequency of lung cancer in workers from a granite quarry in Vermont. The authors compare lung cancer rates before and after 1940, when protection were implemented to contain the amount of quartz dust in the air. The study reports there were no cases of silicosis, which is lung cancer, caused by the inhalation of crystal material containing silica, after the precautions were set in place. The study concluded, however, that these results do not indicate that granite dust exposure is associated with the incidence of lung cancer.
In Singapore, approximately 78 per cent of the cases of silicosis have been linked to workers from granite quarries. A study appearing in the April 1996 issue of the Singapore Medical Journal found that current incidence rates of silicosis was greatly reduced from the 1970s and 1980s when controls were implemented to limit the amount of dust exposure to workers. The study also stated that cases of malignant mesothelioma, another form of lung cancer, are predicted to continue to rise due to its long latent, or incubation, period.
Safeguards in the Quarry Industry
Another study originating from Singapore investigated the frequency of cancers of the lung from over 200 granite quarry workers from 1972 to 1979, when new regulations were enacted. The article, appearing in the May 1992 issue of the Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, reports that the reduction in dust exposure since laws were put into effect led to a sharp decline in silicosis. The study concludes that new regulations have been successful in preventing lung diseases but cautioned that further studies would be necessary.
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- "Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Sigapore"; An Epidemiological Survey of Respiratory Morbidity among Granite Quarry Workers in Singapore: Radiological Abnormalities; T. Ng et al.; May 1992
- "Singapore Medical Journal'; Occupational Respiratory Diseases in Singapore; H. Lee et al.; April 1996
- "Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine"; Vermont Granite Mortality Study: An Update with an Emphasis on Lung Cancer; W. Graham et al.; May 2004
- "Radiation Protection Dosimetry"; Concentrations of Radon and its Daughter Products In and Around Bangalore City; C. Ningappa et al.; April 2008