Engineered Stone Silicosis Lawsuits

Manufacturers of engineered stone have been aware for years that their product poses a significant health risk to workers, causing a lung disease called silicosis. Despite this knowledge being well-documented in medical literature, health advisories, and news reports, these companies prioritized profits over the well-being of their employees. They’ve known about the link between their product and silicosis but have neglected to take action to protect workers from this deadly disease.

What is Engineered Stone?

Engineered (artificial) stone was developed in the 1970s in Italy. The stone is made by combining quartz crystals with resins and pigments to create a durable material for countertops, backsplashes, flooring, and other building components. Quartz crushed into powder is bound together by an adhesive to create a solid surface may also be called agglomerate, agglomerated stone, conglomerate, engineered stone, manufactured stone, reconstituted stone, and synthetic stone.

Creating artificial stone involves several steps. Initially, quartz is extracted from a mine. Afterwards, it undergoes crushing and sorting at a factory. In a chemical plant, a mixture of acids, alcohols, styrene, and peroxide kickstarts chemical reactions to make polyester resin. Simultaneously, pigments are crafted in another section of the chemical plant. These ingredients – crushed quartz, polyester resin, and pigments – are then sent to an artificial stone manufacturing facility. Here, they are blended, placed into molds, compressed, heated, and allowed to cure.

Why is Engineered Stone So Dangerous?

The major difference between engineered stone and natural stone is the silica content. Engineered stone materials contain substantially more crystalline silica than natural stone. These materials are fabricated, ground, and polished by workers both in the manufacturing process and during installation. Workers who are fabricating, grinding, and polishing the engineered stone products are therefore exposed to hazardous levels of crystalline silica dust.

Countertop slab materials contain a greater amount of silica fibers compared to natural stone. They can have as much as 90-95% silica content, whereas granite typically contains only 45% silica, slate about 30%, porcelain about 15%, limestone about 3%, and marble only about 2%.

How are Workers Exposed to Silica from Artificial Stone?

The workers involved in this process have various roles: cutter, fabricator, polisher, and installer. The cutter uses a large, motorized circular saw to cut artificial stone slabs to the required size. The fabricator, using a smaller powered saw, creates openings for the sink, faucet, water return, and detergent dispenser. Additionally, the fabricator grinds the countertop’s edge with a powered tool. The polisher then uses a powered device to give the countertop surface a smooth finish. In smaller shops, the fabricator may also perform this task. Finally, the installer, equipped with powered saws, grinding tools, drills, polishing machines, and chemicals, installs the countertop in the customer’s kitchen or bathroom. They also handle finishing tasks such as assembling and gluing stone pieces, cutting holes for electrical outlets, edging, polishing, and sealing the countertops.

Engineered Stone and Silicosis 

Silicosis, caused by breathing in silica dust, has been recognized as a disease since ancient times. Instances of silicosis date back to 2500 B.C., with workers involved in construction projects like the Egyptian pyramids and Greek temples falling victim to it. Throughout history, miners and stone workers have succumbed to silicosis, with notable disasters like the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel tragedy in the 1930s highlighting its severity. Despite being well-documented, silicosis continues to be a leading cause of occupational disease-related deaths.

Silicosis occurs when scar tissue, known as fibrosis, develops in the lungs. Common symptoms of silicosis include coughing, fatigue, difficulty breathing (shortness of breath), and chronic respiratory illness.

Who is Responsible?

Companies producing engineered stone with high silica content include:

  • Cambria
  • Caesarstone
  • Silestone
  • Consentino
  • MSI

Additionally, manufacturers of equipment used for cutting, sanding, grinding, and polishing this stone may also bear responsibility. They neglected to sufficiently caution users about the hazardous dust generated when their equipment is used on artificial stone. Manufacturers of dry and wet cutting machines, saw bits and blades, among others, were obligated to warn workers that working with engineered stone containing high silica content could result in inhaling harmful levels of dust. Manufacturers of equipment used in cutting, grinding, and polishing engineered stone include:

  • Makita
  • Alpha
  • Diteq
  • Park Industries
  • Sorma
  • Continental Diamond Products
  • Diamax
  • Matabo

Thornton Law Firm has 40 years of experience in toxic tort litigation representing victims with pneumoconiosis

Silicosis is a kind of disease known as pneumoconiosis, which means a disease resulting from breathing in dust – dust like silica or asbestos. Silica dust and asbestos can impact and injure the body in similar ways.  Our attorneys have spent decades representing victims of pneumoconiosis.  As a result, we have a detailed and far-reaching network of pneumoconiosis-related medical experts, information and resources at our disposal.  We are putting those resources to work for our clients with silicosis.

Trust Our New England Silicosis Attorneys to Help

If you have worked with engineered stone, you may have a claim for damages. Contact the Boston law firm of Thornton Law Firm LLP online, or at 888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in toxic tort injury litigation. You have nothing to risk. We offer a fair and accurate assessment of your case.