Things I Have Learned (About Working With Cement/Concrete)

First of all, I'm surprised that no one has yet told me "You do not work with CEMENT - Portland cement is just one ingredient in CONCRETE, which is cement with additives in it (sand, aggregate, latex, fortifier, etc.)". ....And they would be correct! - technically, my work is with concrete; I just decided that "cement" sounds better. Hey, a little artistic latitude, plus most people don't know the difference anyway, but I wanted to put that out there, to clarify the correct term and to prove that I actually know the correct term!

So, with that out of the way, I have to start right at the beginning, when I used my bare hands in the cement, no dust mask, etcetera! Oy. Finally started to research this material I was playing with, and discovered that it is definitely a little more involved than "mud". First, apparently cement can BURN skin on sensitive individuals (evidently I'm not one of those), and even if it does not, repeated exposure could result in the development of contact dermatitis, and that would NOT be good!

Repeated inhalation of the dust can also eventually cause Silicosis, and that is , well, here's what I found online -

"Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth's crust and is a major component of sand, rock, and mineral ores. Overexposure to dust that contains microscopic particles of crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which reduces the lungs' ability to extract oxygen from the air we breathe. Typical sand found at the beach does not pose a silicosis threat.
More than 1 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica. Each year, more than 250 American workers die with silicosis. There is no cure for the disease, but it is 100 percent preventable if employers, workers, and health professionals work together to reduce exposures.
In addition to silicosis, inhalation of crystalline silica particles has been associated with other diseases, such as bronchitis and tuberculosis. Some studies also indicate an association with lung cancer"
- Hmmm, looks like something I may want to avoid, eh?
Materials that contain crystalline silica:
Blasting abrasives
Cement mortar
Mineral deposits
Rock and stone

Occupations that put workers at an increased risk of silica exposure include:
Stone masonry
Abrasives manufacturing
Agriculture (dusty conditions from disturbing the soil, such as plowing or harvesting)
(Oh, great; I'm a gardener, too!)
Glass manufacturing
Ceramics, Clay, Pottery (Pottery?!)
Railroad track setting, laying, and repair
Leaf Sandcasting
Okay, so I added that last one! But I'm pretty sure it belongs there!

Woo-hoo! Sorry, boys, I'm taken - hold yourselves back

Now, I'm quite certain that if you make 3 cast leaves for your garden, you do not need all that protection. But I'm going on 4 years now of working with that stuff almost daily, so I figure I'd better be safe than sorry. Still, everytime I develop any kind of cough, I start to think, "Oh, no! Silicosis!" (did I mention I'm sort of a hypochondriac?).

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