Quartz countertops linked to deadly lung disease in workers who fabricate them

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Quartz countertops have skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade, but new research suggests the material poses a deadly health risk to the workers who make it.

A study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine identified 52 cases of an irreversible, potentially life-threatening lung disease among workers in California who fabricate quartz slabs. Ten of those workers died, and three received lung transplants.

Although quartz is a naturally occurring mineral, the version found in homes is an artificial mixture of silica — a chemical compound — and other materials including resins and dyes. Breathing in large amounts of silica dust can cause inflammation or scarring, also called fibrosis, in the lungs.

This can lead to silicosis, a disease that results in permanent lung damage and sometimes death due to respiratory failure. Patients may start off with a cough or shortness of breath, then eventually require oxygen therapy or a lung transplant.