A timeline of delay and disease

The U.S. government knew about the hazards of workplace exposure to silica before Chris Johnson was born. Yet 30 years later it nearly killed him.

Chris Johnson's life

Regulation of silica

  • OSHA adopts current standard for workplace exposure to silica

  • Dec. 1

    Born in Auburn, N.Y.

  • Oct. 15

    NIOSH evaluates silica as a workplace hazard and recommends to OSHA that exposure limit be cut in half

  • December

    OSHA publishes advanced notice of proposed rulemaking based on NIOSH recommendation

  • June

    International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) finds limited evidence that silica is carcinogenic to humans

  • OSHA includes stricter silica limit in sweeping revision of hundreds of air contaminants. NIOSH recommends in comments that silica be considered a potential carcinogen

  • U.S. National Toxicology Program concludes that silica is “reasonably anticipated as a human carcinogen”

  • July 7

    U.S. Court of Appeals vacates 1989 air contaminants rule for general industry. OSHA is forced to revert to the old exposure limits

  • August

    NIOSH issues an alert stating blasting sand containing silica can cause serious or fatal respiratory disease, citing 99 known cases of silicosis in sandblasters

  • June

    Graduates from Union Springs Central High School and begins masonry career on a construction job in Utica, N.Y.

  • OSHA deems rulemaking for silica exposure a priority

  • August

    OSHA launches a Special Emphasis Program on silica to reduce worker exposures through enforcement

  • October

  • March

    National Conference to Eliminate Silicosis draws some 650 participants

  • October

    OSHA puts silica on its regulatory agenda

  • November

    OSHA moves to pre-rule stage on silica

  • National Toxicology Program reevaluates evidence and concludes silica is “known to be a human carcinogen”

  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) lowers threshold limit value (TLV) for silica to 0.05 mg/m3, the same number recommended by NIOSH in 1974

  • Bush administration designates adoption of a new silica standard a high priority

  • OSHA identifies high rates of noncompliance with silica exposure limit, particularly in construction

  • April-September

    Helps repair a brick public housing complex in Rome, N.Y.; grows short of breath toward end of job

  • Dec. 7

    Admitted to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., and diagnosed with acute silicosis

  • Dec. 15

    Left lung lavage

  • Dec. 28

    Released from hospital

  • Feb. 12

    Marries Beverly Johnson

  • May 16

    Bilateral lung lavage

  • Files lawsuit against the Rome Housing Authority

  • No longer needs a constant external oxygen supply

  • ACGIH lowers TLV for silica to 0.025 mg/m3

  • Jan. 24

    OSHA implements a National Emphasis Program for silica

  • Obama administration designates silica standard a high priority

  • Lawsuit is settled

  • Feb. 14

    Proposed silica rule submitted to Office of Management and Budget for supposed 90-day review

  • March-August

    Nine meetings on silica are held at OMB; industry representatives outnumber labor and public-health representatives 44-to-13 at these meetings

  • March

    Two more meetings are held at OMB; industry representatives outnumber labor and public-health representatives 9-to-1

  • Aug. 23

    After 921 days, OMB completes proposed rule to set permissible exposure limit to .05 mg/m3 – the same number recommended by NIOSH nearly 40 years earlier

  • March 18

    OSHA holds public hearings on the proposed rule

  • June

    Tries to return to masonry, has to leave after a few weeks due to health

  • Feb. 13

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1,437 people had silicosis listed as an underlying or contributing cause of death between 2001 and 2010, and that 2 million American workers remain potentially exposed to silica

  • March 23

    The Construction Industry Safety Coalition, an industry group, submits report to OSHA claiming silica rule could cost the construction industry more than $4.9 billion a year and lead to more than 52,700 lost jobs. OSHA estimates $511 million in annual costs