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Silica Dust at Dangerous Levels in Manhattan Subway

EMSL Analytical offers advanced testing for crystalline silica, including alpha-quartz, cristobalite, tridymite, and amorphous silica


Air samples taken at the Second Avenue subway construction site in New York City show high levels of silica dust, which can lead to debilitating health conditions and death. A report completed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated that the air inside the tunnel contained more than three times the allowable level of silica dust.
Crystalline silica, a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and other minerals, has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Breathing the dust can also cause silicosis, an incurable condition in which silica dust enters the lungs and creates scar tissue. The scar tissue reduces the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen, which can eventually be fatal. Moreover, silicosis makes the lungs more susceptible to other lung conditions, such as tuberculosis.
As a result of the findings, OSHA has fined three contractors, who have until April 20 to appeal. Silica dust is a significant occupational health hazard, impacting nearly 2 million American workers. Particularly high risk jobs are abrasive blasting, foundry work, stonecutting, rock drilling, quarry work, and tunneling.
People living and working near the Second Avenue site are worried about the risk of exposure above ground. The MTA insists that this is not a hazard, despite neighborhood residents complaining of respiratory problems that have been dubbed “Second Avenue Cough.”
“As one of the nation’s foremost environmental testing laboratories, EMSL Analytical has the expertise to help government agencies and industry monitor for crystalline and amorphous silica to prevent illness and even death from prolonged exposure,” states Jian Hu, Ph.D., Senior Laboratory Scientist at EMSL. “We test air and bulk samples using NIOSH Method 7500, NIOSH Method 7501, and OSHA Method ID-142.”
For more information on EMSL’s testing services, please contact EMSL at (800) 220-3675, visit, or email
About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is the nation’s leading testing laboratory with over 30 locations throughout the United States and Canada. We are a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in consumer product, environmental, industrial hygiene, indoor air quality, microbiology, radon, food, and materials testing services to professionals and the general public.  Please visit our website for a complete listing of accreditations from leading organizations, as well as state and federal regulating bodies.


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