There are many products, either natural or man-made, that contain silica. Cement is the obvious one, as sand is a primary component in its manufacture. Naturally occurring sandstone is another example. When these silica bearing materials are mechanically cut or ground, very fine particles of silica are produced.
If there is no control over the dispersal of these particles, those working in the vicinity are likely to inhale this material. At worst this can lead to the very serious disease of silicosis, or the development of a range of other poor health outcomes.
For example, the American National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reported that workers exposed to crystalline silica dust have a 10-fold higher rate of lupus and other systemic autoimmune diseases (such as scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis) compared to rates in the general population.
Industrial Health Matters assists worksites in controlling silica and other concrete dusts, through advising on control options, compliance air monitoring and training for workers and supervisors in the health effects of exposure to toxic dusts.
IHM has conducted published research on exposures to autoclaved aerated concrete, commonly called Hebel (Trompf P & Oosthuizen J, 2015. Crystalline silica exposure of workers using autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) products. J Health Saf Environ 2015, 31(1): 499-512).