Thursday, July 15, 2004

Silica: The "New" Asbestos?

Some of the insurance companies think so.
Insurers watched in horror as a new surge of asbestos injury claims a few years ago pushed their estimated bill to $65 billion or more.

Now, after wrestling with asbestos for more than 20 years, property-casualty insurers are sweating about another mineral that can heavily damage the lungs: silica.

Silica is a mineral found in sand, granite, concrete, and other substances. The silica dust that can cause lung disease becomes airborne in mining, foundry work, construction, and other common activities.

The number of injury claims involving silica dust has soared. At least 30,000 people nationwide have filed such claims - many of them in the past two years, and typically against multiple businesses, industry researchers say.

That's a small fraction of the estimated 730,000 who have filed asbestos claims, according to A.M. Best Co., an insurance research and rating firm.