One of the most significant concerns regarding dust-exposure in the equestrian world is Crystalline Silica dust exposure. If you have a horse arena, you are probably worried about this, too. Since overexposure is now linked to potentially fatal diseases such as lung cancer, it’s only natural to be concerned and be looking for solutions to create a safe arena.
A study published in 2019 by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has explored the crystalline silica dust exposure risk for equestrian workers training and exercising horses.
This study highlights the potential exposure to high levels of crystalline silica – which can contribute to serious respiratory diseases, including silicosis and lung cancer.
Let’s find out more about how exposed horse trainers and coaches are and what conditions can develop.
Health Risks Of Crystalline Silica Dust Exposure
Most horse arenas contain sand in the composition of the footing, and in time, this can break down into smaller and smaller particles that may become airborne crystalline silica. This is a fine dust that can be inhaled by both horses and humans.
Prolonged exposure to airborne crystalline silica can lead to lung cancer and other serious respiratory issues. Here’s a study that tells the story of a 48 trainer who was exposed to crystalline silica dust while working in a sand arena for more than 20 years. He died of lung cancer, and the authors stated that crystalline silica dust exposure was likely the cause.
Exposure to crystalline silica can also cause silicosis, another potentially fatal lung disease. In the case of silicosis, the fine particles of dust are deposited in the lungs and cause tissue scarring.
Every arena can potentially become health hazards if the appropriate measures to prevent exposure are not taken. Let’s move on to see what kind of steps you can take to avoid those kinds of tragedies from happening in the future.
Another condition that might develop over time with prolonged dust exposure is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, affecting both humans and horses.
Next, we’ll move on to show you how you can reduce the risks of crystalline silica dust exposure to provide a safe environment for you and those who work or visit your arena.
How To Prevent Exposure
Here are some tips you might consider to reduce the risks of exposure to crystalline silica dust and make sure your staff, family, and pets are all safe.
The most radical approach to eliminating the risk of exposure is to eliminate the cause altogether. If it’s possible, consider substituting the sand in your footing with other safer materials to make sure you create a safe environment in your horse arena.
Use Medium-coarse Washed Sand
In some cases, eliminating the sand footing may not be an option due to high costs or lack of availability for other footing materials.
If this is the case, make sure you always use medium-coarse, washed sand in your footing. This type of sand is less fine and less likely to produce dust, so it’s a safer option to consider.
Use Watering Systems
Watering often can be a solution to keep dust from rising and reducing the risk of crystalline silica exposure. But watering by hand can be time-consuming or expensive if you pay someone to do it for you.
Consider adding a watering system to your arena to ensure the arena sand always has the right amount of moisture and is dust-free.
Use Dust-control Products
In some areas, water is not widely available, not to mention the environmental concerns of wasting this finite resource may rise amongst arena owners.
If you need an environmental-friendly solution that can help you eliminate the crystalline silica dust exposure risk, you can use a dust-control product. WHOA Dust control works by keeping dust from rising, retaining moisture, and, as an added bonus, it also improves the traction and proprieties of your footing, making it more pleasant to ride.
Using WHOA Dust™ will allow you to reduce the water expenses by at least 50%, although our customer average is actually 75%.
Remember that all footing materials will eventually break down into airborne particles, so the key to avoid exposure to crystalline silica dust is regular maintenance.
Footing materials should be completed or completely replaced periodically to prevent dust exposure in the long term.
Contact us if you have more concerns about crystalline silica dust exposure. We can help you decide how to move forward to provide a safe, fun, and healthy arena for yourself, your workers, and your horses.