zoom info

What Surfaces are Crystalline Silica Free?

Engineered stone is a popular choice for countertops, flooring, and other applications due to its durability and aesthetic appeal. However, concerns about the crystalline silica content in traditional engineered stone have driven a search for safer alternatives. This blog post explores a variety of crystalline silica-free options that are both stylish and environmentally responsible.

Why Avoid Silica in Engineered Stone?

Silica is a major component in many types of engineered stone. When inhaled as dust, it can lead to serious health issues, including silicosis and other chronic respiratory diseases. As a result, there is a growing demand for building materials that prioritize health without sacrificing quality.

Types of Silica-Free Composite Surfaces

Durat: Durat is a solid surface material made from recycled plastics. The durable material is offered in a wide range of vibrant colors and patterns, and it is non-porous, making it hygienic and easy to clean.

Lapitec: Lapitec is an innovative sintered stone produced with advanced technology to create a durable, non-porous, and UV-stable surface. It mimics the natural beauty of stone without the use of silica.

GEOS and Gilasi: These brands offer countertops made from recycled glass and resin binders. They are eco-friendly, available in numerous colors and styles, and resistant to heat and stains.

PaperStone: PaperStone is made from recycled paper and non-petroleum-based resin, providing a durable and sustainable alternative to engineered stones. It is ideal for those seeking an eco-conscious choice with a unique aesthetic.

Advantages and Considerations

Each of these materials brings its own set of benefits. Durat, with its recycled content, is an excellent choice for environmentally conscious projects. Lapitec offers unparalleled durability and resistance, suitable for high-use areas. Recycled glass countertops like GEOS and Gilasi provide a unique, colorful look while being eco-friendly. PaperStone, made from recycled paper, offers a distinctively warm and natural feel.

Cost, installation requirements, and maintenance vary among these options, so it’s important to consider these factors in your decision-making process. However, all are suitable for commercial use as well as residential projects.

There is a clear trend in the construction and interior design industries towards materials that are both safe and sustainable. As technology advances, we can expect to see more innovative, eco-friendly materials entering the market.

Opting for crystalline silica-free alternatives in engineered stone is not just a trend; it’s a commitment to health and sustainability. These materials offer exciting possibilities for both new construction and remodeling projects, allowing for creative, safe, and environmentally responsible design choices.

FAQs on Silica-Free Engineered Stone

Q: What is Crystalline Silica?

A: Crystalline silica is a natural mineral found in quartz, sand, and certain types of stone and clay. It is commonly used in various industrial products, including traditional engineered stone.

Q: Why is Crystalline Silica Dangerous?

A: When crystalline silica particles are inhaled, they can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing damage and scarring. Prolonged exposure can lead to serious respiratory diseases like silicosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Q: Are Crystalline Silica-Free Composite Surfaces as Durable as Traditional Engineered Stones?

A: Yes, silica-free engineered surfaces like Durat, Lapitec, GEOS, Gilasi, and PaperStone are designed to be durable. They are often comparable, if not superior, in terms of heat resistance, scratch resistance, and overall longevity.

Q: Can Crystalline Silica-Free Composite Surfaces be Used in All the Same Applications as Traditional Engineered Stone?

A: Generally, yes. These alternatives are suitable for a wide range of applications including countertops, flooring, and wall cladding. Some, like PaperStone, offer unique aesthetic and tactile qualities that are especially popular in certain design contexts.

Q: Are Crystalline Silica-Free Alternatives More Expensive than Traditional Engineered Stone?

A: The cost will vary depending on the material. Some silica-free options may be more expensive due to their sustainable manufacturing processes or the use of recycled materials. However, many find the additional cost worthwhile for the health and environmental benefits.

Q: How Do I Care for and Maintain Silica-Free Composite Surfaces?

A: Maintenance varies by material. Generally, most can be cleaned with mild detergents and a soft cloth. It’s important to refer to the specific care instructions provided by the manufacturer for the best results and to maintain the warranty.

Q: Are There Any Design Limitations with Silica-Free Composite Surfaces?

A: While each material has its unique characteristics and processing requirements, they offer a wide range of design possibilities. Innovations in manufacturing have expanded color, texture, and finish options, allowing for diverse and creative applications.

Q: How is Crystalline Silica related to Countertops?

A: Crystalline silica is often used in engineered stone countertops, like quartz, due to its durability and aesthetic appeal.

Q: What types of Countertops contain Crystalline Silica?

A: Engineered stone countertops, especially quartz, are the primary types that contain crystalline silica.

Q: Is Crystalline Silica safe in Countertops?

A: Yes, when embedded in countertops, crystalline silica poses no significant health risk under normal use and maintenance.

Q: What are the Health Risks associated with Crystalline Silica?

A: The primary health risk is from inhaling silica dust, which can lead to silicosis, a lung disease, and other respiratory issues.

Q: How can I identify if my Countertop has Crystalline Silica?

A: Check the product specifications or contact the manufacturer. Engineered stone countertops, particularly quartz, typically contain crystalline silica.

Q: What Safety Precautions should be taken when Installing Countertops with Crystalline Silica?

A: Installers should use dust control methods like wet cutting, and wear protective gear to avoid inhaling silica dust.

Q: How to Properly Maintain a Countertop with Crystalline Silica?

A: Regular cleaning with non-abrasive materials and avoiding direct cutting on the surface can maintain its integrity.

Q: Can Crystalline Silica be Released from Countertops during Regular Use?

A: Under normal household use, the release of silica particles is negligible.

Q: What Regulations Govern the Use of Crystalline Silica in Countertops?

A: OSHA provides guidelines for occupational exposure to crystalline silica, including in countertop manufacturing and installation.

Q: How does Crystalline Silica in Countertops Impact Indoor Air Quality?

A: There’s minimal impact on indoor air quality from these countertops under normal household conditions.

Q: Are there Alternatives to Countertops with Crystalline Silica?

A: Yes, materials like solid surface, laminate, granite, and marble are alternatives.

Q: How to Handle Breakage or Damage of a Countertop with Crystalline Silica?

A: Avoid dry sweeping or vacuuming the debris. Wet methods or a HEPA-filter vacuum should be used for cleanup.

Q: What are the Long-term Effects of Exposure to Crystalline Silica?

A: Long-term exposure, mainly through occupational settings, can lead to chronic respiratory illnesses like silicosis.

Q: Can Crystalline Silica in Countertops Affect Children or Pets?

A: There’s no direct risk to children or pets from these countertops under normal conditions.

Q: How to Dispose of Countertops containing Crystalline Silica?

A: Follow local guidelines for disposing of construction materials and consider professional services for safe removal.

Q: What Cleaning Products are Safe to Use on Countertops with Crystalline Silica?

A: Mild dish soap and water are typically safe. Avoid abrasive cleaners that can wear down the surface.

Q: Are there any Recent Studies on Crystalline Silica in Countertops?

A: Ongoing studies primarily focus on occupational exposure rather than household risks.

Q: What Role does Ventilation Play in Managing Crystalline Silica Dust?

A: Good ventilation is crucial during installation or cutting to disperse silica dust.

Q: Who to Contact for Concerns about Crystalline Silica in Countertops?

A: Contact the countertop manufacturer for product-specific concerns or OSHA for workplace safety issues.

Q: What percentage of Crystalline Silica is typically found in Engineered Stone Countertops?

A: Engineered stone countertops can contain over 90% crystalline silica, significantly higher than natural stone.

Q: How does the Crystalline Silica content in Engineered Stone compare to Natural Stone?

A: Natural stone like granite contains less crystalline silica, usually around 40-60%, compared to the higher content in engineered stone.

Q: What specific health issues can arise from long-term exposure to Crystalline Silica dust?

A: Prolonged inhalation of silica dust can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Q: How effective are Water Suppression Systems in reducing Crystalline Silica dust during Countertop Fabrication?

A: Water suppression systems are highly effective, reducing silica dust by up to 85-95% during cutting and grinding.

Q: What are the best practices for Indoor Air Quality Management when installing Engineered Stone Countertops?

A: Besides using water suppression and HEPA-filter vacuums, ensuring adequate ventilation and air filtration during installation is crucial.

Q: Can Engineered Stone Countertops release Radon, and is it related to Crystalline Silica content?

A: While some engineered stone can emit radon, it’s generally low and not directly related to its crystalline silica content.

Q: Are there specific OSHA Regulations for Residential Installers working with Engineered Stone?

A: OSHA’s regulations for crystalline silica (29 CFR 1926.1153) apply to all workers, including residential installers, requiring dust control measures and exposure limits.

Q: How does the Durability of Engineered Stone with high Crystalline Silica content compare to other materials?

A: High crystalline silica content gives engineered stone excellent durability and scratch resistance, often outperforming other materials like laminate or solid surface.

Q: What are the Environmental Impacts of manufacturing Engineered Stone Countertops?

A: The environmental impact includes significant energy use and potential silica dust release during manufacturing, requiring careful mitigation.

Q: Can DIY Projects involving Engineered Stone pose a risk due to Crystalline Silica?

A: Yes, DIY projects without proper equipment and safety measures can expose individuals to harmful silica dust.

Q: What are the latest advancements in reducing Crystalline Silica exposure in the Countertop Industry?

A: Recent advancements include improved dust extraction tools, safer cutting techniques, and the development of low-silica-content engineered stones.

Q: What are the Pros and Cons of Granite compared to Engineered Stone in terms of Silica content and safety?

A: Granite has lower silica content, reducing health risks, but requires more maintenance. Engineered stone offers durability and a wider range of designs but with higher silica risks.

Q: How does the Cost of Engineered Stone with high Silica content compare to other Countertop materials?

A: Engineered stone is often mid-range in price, generally more expensive than laminate but less than some natural stones.

Q: What are some Silica-Free or Low-Silica Countertop Alternatives?

A: Recycled glass, Sintered stone, Solid surface materials, laminate, wood, stainless steel, and ceramic tiles are low or no silica options.

Q: How do Engineered Stone Countertops impact Home Resale Value compared to other materials?

A: Engineered stone, with its aesthetic appeal and durability, can positively impact home resale value, similar to natural stone countertops.

Q: What are the latest trends in Countertop materials with regards to Health and Safety?

A: Trends include the rise of non-toxic, eco-friendly materials and those with antimicrobial properties, with a focus on reducing health risks like silica exposure.

Q: How is the Countertop Industry responding to concerns about Crystalline Silica?

A: The industry is developing materials with lower silica content, enhancing safety protocols, and investing in worker training and consumer education.

Q: Are there any specific Cleaning Products to avoid on Engineered Stone to prevent releasing Silica Dust?

A: Avoid abrasive cleaners or pads that can wear down the surface and potentially release silica particles.

Q: What is the average Lifespan of Engineered Stone Countertops and how does Silica content affect it?

A: Engineered stone can last over 25 years, with high silica content contributing to its durability and resistance to scratches and stains.

Q: How can Consumers ensure their Engineered Stone Countertops are installed safely with regards to Silica Dust?

A: Hire experienced professionals who follow OSHA guidelines for silica dust control, and ensure installation involves adequate ventilation and dust suppression measures.

Q: What is the Respirable Silica Dust Particle Size when Cutting Engineered Stone, and why is it Hazardous?

A: Respirable silica dust particles, typically less than 10 micrometers in diameter, can penetrate deep into the lungs when inhaled during cutting, posing significant health risks like silicosis.

Q: How do Different Cutting Techniques Affect Silica Dust Emission in Engineered Stone Fabrication?

A: Dry cutting generates more respirable silica dust than wet cutting. Water suppression systems during wet cutting significantly reduce dust emissions.

Q: What are the Specific OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) for Crystalline Silica, and how do they apply to Countertop Fabrication?

A: OSHA’s PEL for crystalline silica is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift. Compliance in countertop fabrication involves engineering controls, respiratory protection, and medical surveillance.

Q: Can Polishing or Finishing Engineered Stone Surfaces also Release Crystalline Silica?

A: Yes, polishing or finishing without appropriate dust control can release crystalline silica, although generally less than cutting or grinding.

Q: Which Countertop Materials other than Engineered Stone also contain Crystalline Silica, and in what approximate percentages?

A: Natural stones like granite (about 40-60% silica) and slate can contain crystalline silica, though in lower percentages than engineered stone.

Q: What are the Technical Challenges in Creating Engineered Stone with Lower Crystalline Silica Levels?

A: The challenge lies in maintaining the desired properties like durability and aesthetics while replacing silica with safer materials.

Q: How Effective are Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems in Controlling Silica Dust during Countertop Installation?

A: Local exhaust ventilation systems can be highly effective, often removing over 90% of the airborne dust if properly designed and maintained.

Q: What are the Technological Advances in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Workers Handling High-Silica Countertops?

A: Advances include more effective respirators with higher filtration efficiency, comfortable and sealable protective clothing, and real-time silica exposure monitoring devices.

Q: What are the Best Practices for Handling and Disposing of Waste Generated from Cutting Silica-containing Countertops?

A: Wet methods for waste collection, sealed and labeled disposal containers, and avoiding dry sweeping or using a regular vacuum are best practices.

Q: Is There any Safe Level of Exposure to Crystalline Silica Dust during Countertop Fabrication and Installation?

A: No level of exposure to crystalline silica dust is considered completely safe. Even minimal exposure can pose long-term health risks, emphasizing the need for strict control measures and adherence to safety guidelines.



Q:  Are alternative materials like recycled glass or glass safer than crystalline silica?  Are they suitable as a replacement and are they safer?

A: Health Risks: Unlike crystalline silica, glass does not pose the same level of health risk in terms of respiratory diseases like silicosis. When glass is broken or worked with, it does not typically create the same kind of respirable dust as crystalline silica.

Aesthetics and Functionality: Glass can offer a wide range of aesthetic options, including various colors, textures, and finishes. It can be recycled and shaped into beautiful and unique countertops. Additionally, glass is non-porous, making it a hygienic option for surfaces that require regular cleaning.

Durability: While glass is generally durable and resistant to stains and acids, it may not have the same level of heat resistance or scratch resistance as some forms of crystalline silica, such as quartz. This should be considered in applications where these properties are crucial.

Environmental Considerations: Using recycled glass for countertops is an environmentally friendly option. It reduces waste and does not involve the mining activities associated with quartz or granite extraction.

Manufacturing Process: The manufacturing process of glass countertops typically does not involve the risks associated with the processing of materials containing crystalline silica. There is no significant risk of inhaling harmful silica dust.

Cost and Availability: Glass countertops can vary in price, often depending on the degree of customization and the type of glass used. They are widely available through various manufacturers.

Installation and Maintenance: Glass countertops must be installed carefully to prevent chipping or cracking. They can require specific maintenance routines, but they are generally easy to clean and maintain.

In conclusion, glass can be a suitable alternative to crystalline silica in countertops and other similar applications. It offers a combination of aesthetic appeal, environmental friendliness, and reduced health risks, though it may have different physical properties that affect its suitability for certain specific uses.

Q:  Are alternative materials like Cristobalite safer than crystalline silica?  Are they suitable as a replacement and are they safer?

A: Cristobalite is a mineral that is one of the several polymorphs of silica (SiO2). It’s structurally different from quartz, another silica polymorph, due to its crystalline structure. Cristobalite is formed at high temperatures from quartz or amorphous silica and is found naturally in volcanic rocks and some other silica-rich rocks.

Regarding its use as a substitute for crystalline silica in applications like countertops:

Similarities to Crystalline Silica: Cristobalite shares many chemical properties with other forms of crystalline silica, such as quartz, because they are all polymorphs of silica. This means they have the same chemical formula but different crystal structures.

Physical Properties: Cristobalite has high heat resistance and stability, much like quartz. It also has a high degree of whiteness and translucency, which can be desirable in certain applications.

Health Risks: Like other forms of crystalline silica, cristobalite can pose health risks when inhaled as fine dust. Exposure to respirable cristobalite dust can lead to silicosis and other respiratory diseases. This is a critical factor to consider, especially in industries like countertop manufacturing where materials are cut, ground, or polished.

Usage in Industry: Due to its properties, cristobalite is used in various industrial applications, including the manufacture of glass and ceramics, as well as in some paints and coatings. However, its use as a direct substitute for crystalline silica in countertops may not mitigate the health risks associated with silica dust.

Regulatory Aspect: Cristobalite is regulated under the same occupational safety guidelines as other forms of crystalline silica, due to its similar health risks when inhaled.

In summary, while cristobalite shares many properties with quartz and could theoretically be used in similar applications, it does not offer a significant advantage in terms of reducing health risks associated with silica dust. For industries like countertop manufacturing, the focus has shifted towards materials that do not produce harmful respirable dust, rather than simply substituting one form of crystalline silica for another.

Q:  Are alternative materials like paper composite surfaces safer than crystalline silica surfaces like natural stone and quartz?  Are they suitable as a replacement?

Paper composite countertops are an innovative and eco-friendly alternative to traditional countertop materials, including engineered stone tops. Here’s an overview of their characteristics and whether they contain silica:

Composition: Paper composite countertops are made from recycled paper or wood fiber mixed with resins. They are part of a category known as solid surface countertops.

Silica Content: Typically, paper composite countertops do not contain crystalline silica. Their primary materials are paper and non-mineral resin, which differentiates them from engineered stone that often contains high levels of crystalline silica.

Durability: These countertops are known for their durability and strength. They are highly resistant to scratches, stains, and heat, making them suitable for kitchen and bathroom environments.

Eco-Friendliness: Being made from recycled materials, paper composite countertops are an environmentally friendly choice. They appeal to those looking to reduce their environmental impact.

Maintenance: They are easy to maintain, requiring just basic cleaning. Some paper composite countertops can develop a patina over time, adding character.

Aesthetic Appeal: While they offer a different look compared to engineered stone, paper composites have a warm, natural appearance and come in various colors and finishes.

Cost: The price of paper composite countertops can be comparable to mid-range stone countertops. They are generally more affordable than high-end stone options but can be more expensive than entry-level materials.

Installation and Repair: These countertops can be easier to fabricate and install than stone. They can also be sanded and repaired if scratched or damaged, which is an advantage over some other materials.

Health and Safety: Paper composite countertops do not pose the health risks associated with crystalline silica dust. This makes them a safer option, especially in terms of respiratory health.

Suitability: While they may not have the same luxurious feel or the exact look of engineered stone, paper composites are a practical, durable, and eco-friendly alternative suitable for various applications, including kitchens and bathrooms.

In summary, paper composite countertops are a good alternative to engineered stone tops, offering durability, eco-friendliness, and a unique aesthetic without the health risks associated with crystalline silica.

Q:  Are alternative materials like solid surface and recycled solid surfaces (Durat) safer than crystalline silica surfaces like natural stone and quartz?  Are they suitable as a replacement?

Solid surface countertops are indeed a good alternative to engineered stone, especially when considering the health risks associated with crystalline silica and the environmental benefits of using recycled materials. Here’s a detailed focus on these aspects:

Crystalline Silica Concerns:  Made primarily from acrylic or polyester resins and fillers, they typically do not contain crystalline silica. This absence significantly reduces the risk of silica dust inhalation during fabrication, installation, or repair, making them a safer choice in terms of respiratory health.

Recycled Content in Solid Surface Countertops:

Eco-Friendly: Many manufacturers now incorporate recycled materials into solid surface countertops. This approach not only reduces waste but also minimizes the environmental impact associated with the production of new materials.

Sustainability: The use of recycled content contributes to the sustainability credentials of solid surface countertops. Recycled plastics, glass, and other materials can be used in their composition, offering an environmentally responsible alternative.

Performance and Aesthetics: Despite containing recycled materials, these countertops do not compromise on performance or aesthetic appeal. They still offer a wide range of designs, colors, and finishes, and maintain their durability and non-porous characteristics.

Durability: While not as hard as engineered stone, solid surface countertops are durable and capable of withstanding daily wear and tear in a typical kitchen or bathroom.

Repairability: One of the key advantages is their ability to be easily repaired and refinished, which can extend their lifespan significantly.

Non-Porous Surface: They offer a hygienic surface due to their non-porous nature, resisting stains and bacterial growth.

Design Flexibility: Solid surface materials can be thermoformed into various shapes, allowing for creative and customized designs, including integrated sinks and seamless joints.

In summary, solid surface countertops, particularly those incorporating recycled materials, offer a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to engineered stone, mainly due to the absence of crystalline silica. They provide a balance of aesthetic versatility, practicality, and sustainability, making them a suitable option for various applications.


Contact CaraGreen for more information or subscribe to our monthly email updates here.

Call To Action Image

Have a Question?

Don't hesitate, click the chat button below and get the help you need. Our friendly and knowledgeable support team is waiting to assist you with any questions or concerns!