Americas Silicosis Initiative
Crystalline silica is one of the most common minerals in the earth's crust. Crystalline silica dust is released during numerous operations in which silica-containing products undergo any process that can create visible or invisible dust particles, such as the drilling of concrete. Workers may be exposed to crystalline silica in many different workplaces and processes such as mines, construction sites, and during the making of ceramicss.
Millions of workers in the Americas are exposed to crystalline silica. In Colombia alone, an estimated 1.8 million workers are at risk of developing silicosis, which is an incurable and irreversible lung disease caused by inhalation of dust containing free crystalline silica. Preventive action should be taken before workers are exposed.
The ILO/WHO International Programme on the Global Elimination of Silicosis calls for the elimination of silicosis worldwide by 2030. It includes:
- formulation of national, regional and global action plans;
- mobilization of resources for the application of primary and secondary prevention;
- epidemiological surveillance;
- monitoring and evaluation of results; and
- strengthening required national capabilities and the establishment of national programmes.
The programme will depend heavily on cooperation between international organizations and industrialized and developing countries.
In 2005, WHO, PAHO, the Chilean Ministry of Health and ILO requested that NIOSH provide capacity-building technical assistance to eliminate silicosis in the Americas. The Americas Silicosis Initiative was born as a partnership between WHO, PAHO, ILO, Chile, Brazil, and Peru. This initiative is the first regional approach to mitigate silicosis and is based upon sharing expertise to benefit workers and communities of many countries.