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Re: Serious dangers of rock cutting

I found the below very interesting.  My Grandfather was a life long
"rock hound", and died of lung cancer, without any other significant
risk factors -- he smoked in his youth, but had quit more than 30 years
before--he did lapidary(sp?) work into his 70's.

Glen J. Kuban wrote:
> It's funny, or really not so funny, that you should write now.
> I'm suffering a chronic lung irritation, and seeing doctors now,
> because of the results of a similar incident.  In short, yes, one
> or a few exposures to significant amounts of fresh-cut rock can
> cause serious problems.  Silicosis is only one of many
> lung problems that can be caused by rock dust, many of which
> (like fibrosis) can occur no matter what the composition of the
> rock. Wearing a good respirator or hood with dust collector if
> working indoors) is a must. If you don't have the proper safety
> equipment, don't cut the rock!
> Unfortunately, I found out the hard way, I hope everyone learns
> from my mistakes.  About a year ago our fossil club went to Ontario
> to collect trilobites, and we took along a diamond rock saw.  I only
> sawed out a few trilobites for fellow members (without wearing a mask;
> I forgot to bring one) and I tried to not inhale the dust.  However,
> large clouds of it were kicked up each time, and it was impossible to avoid
> ihnaling quite a bit of it.  My the next morning I had significant
> lung irritation, and have had it ever since--some days worse than others.
> I have frequent coughing and uncomfortable sensation in my upper chest.
> After this went on a few weeks, I went to a doctor, not knowing if I had
> contracted a bacteria fungus in the quarry, or just had accumulated too much
> dust in my lungs.  An x-ray was clear, but that is not unusual in such cases
> (it sometimes takes years for fibosis, TB, cancer, and other diseases to
> develop, all of which the sharp dust particles can lead to).  Apparently
> the rock dust itself is the main cause the irriration, and leaves me a
> at increased risk of fibrosis other serious problems as well, as explained
> below.
> Many people assume years of exposure to rock dust is needed to cause serious
> problems, and this is generally true when dealing with wind-blow, low
> concentration dust, which usually has already been weathered to some degree.
> But not so with fresh cut rock.  After I started having my problems, I began
> talking to doctors and doing lots of reading.  I also talked to an uncle who
> used to work in a quarry, and is now dying of pulmonary fibrosis at the age of
> 55.  I'm now going to his doctor.
> It turns out that not only do rock particles of any composition tend to stay
> and accumulate in the lungs, but _fresh cut_ rock is the worse, and extremely
> pernicious. Even one or a few incidents of significant inhalation of such dust
> can cause lung irritation and a process of increasingly serious lung damage.
> The microscopic particles are like millions razor-edged shards that damage
> lung tissue directly, as well as create countless sites of infection for TB,
> microplasms, fibrosis, lung cancer, and other diseases. Experiments with rats
> and other animals have shown that inhallation of fresh cut rock dust is far
> more damaging than worn rock dust, of any composition, and leads to far
> greater incidents of several lung diseases, including fibrosis and cancer.
> (But even accumulations of worn rock dust in the lungs greatly increased
> chances of lung diseases).
> I've also made many fossil molds and casts in recent years, and although I
> often wore a mask while working with plaster, sometimes did not.  I may well
> have accumulated plaster in my lungs as well, which contributed to or
> aggravated my lung condition also.  Plaster hardens when in contact with
> moisture, wherever it occurs, including one's lungs. But I did not have the
> constant lung irritation until after the Ontario trip using the rock saw (on
> hard shales and siltstones), and have had it ever since.
> I have another apppointment with the pulmonary doctor on Thursday, but from
> what I have learned such damage is generally irreversible, the best I may hope
> for is to have my condition not get worse.  I may have to live with lung
> irritation and chronic caugh for the rest of my life, plus increased chances
> for the serious conditions I listed above.
> So PLEASE, whenever you are cutting or grinding rock of any kind, ALWAYS wear
> a respirator (not just a cheap dust mask).  If working indoors, use a dust
> collecting hood, or don't do it. Your health is not worth any fossil.
> There are serious inhallation dangers in the lab also, including
> solvents, urethanes, glues, and other chemicals used on prep work.  These too
> can have accumulative effects, and lead to a variety of heath problems.  Work
> with such chemicals only with very good ventillation, or under a hood, or
> don't do it.  Again, a fossil is not worth your health.
> If I scared anyone, I can't feel too bad, because I wish someone had scared me
> before I did what I did, and may have to pay the price the rest of my life.
> Pete, in your case, I hope you do not have any problems, and can only
> urge you not to do it again, at least not without wearing a respirator.
> Although any kind of rock dust can be harmful, I would not assume
> that all the material you inhaled was calcium carbonate.  The cement
> between the grains might be, but the sand particles themselves are
> probably siliceous.
> Thank you.
> Glen Kuban
> paleo@ix.netcom.com