Laminated Glass Poses Significant Danger

Here is a simple question for you. Does your rescue truck or the truck that carries the extrication equipment have N95 masks? If it does not, it should. Have you ever noticed how long glass dust lingers in the air? Did you know that TERC sanctioned extrication challenges it is mandatory for all rescuers and the live patient to wear an N95 dust mask while removing glass? When I was watching the Roadway Rescue team cut apart a Ford Transport for a new DVD series late last year everyone made sure they were wearing a mask whenever glass was broken or removed. Take it from the guys that do it day in and day out, wear a mask and make sure your patient has one too.

If you are still thinking that you don’t need a mask, just check out the Material Safety Data Sheet on Silica below. I found the MSDS and another important reason why we should were a mask on an article that my friend Randy Schmitz wrote for Firefightering in Canada. Randy contacted some glass makers and found out that modern “laminated glass is made up of 70 per cent silica and other raw materials. Modern laminated windshield glass is made of poly vinyl butyral, iron oxide, silica sand, soda ash, dolomite and limestone”. That should prompt every rescuer to wear a N95-style dust mask when working around glass dust and particles. Two important points to leave you with:

  • Do not rely on your sight to determine if dust is in the air.
  • Respirable crystalline silica dust may be in the air without a visible dust cloud.

Check out Randy’s article called Extrication Tips: Raising the roof (Laminated glass removal poses significant danger) for extrication techniques to minimize glass dust during extrication.



Material Safety Data Sheet on silica:

OSHA regulatory status
This material is considered hazardous under the OSHA Hazard Communications Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200).
Potential health effects


  1. Silicosis: respirable crystalline silica (quartz) can cause silicosis, a fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs. Silicosis may be progressive; it may lead to disability and death.
  2. Lung cancer: crystalline silica (quartz) inhaled from occupational sources is classified as carcinogenic to humans.
  3. Tuberculosis: silicosis increases the risk of tuberculosis.
  4. Autoimmune and chronic kidney diseases: some studies show excess numbers of cases of scleroderma, connective tissue disorders, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney diseases and end-stage kidney disease in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
  5. Non-malignant respiratory diseases (other than silicosis): some studies show an increased incidence in chronic bronchitis and emphysema in workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica.
  • Eye contact: crystalline silica (quartz) may cause abrasion of the cornea.
  • Chronic effects: The adverse health effects  – silicosis, lung cancer, autoimmune and chronic kidney diseases, tuberculosis.
  • Signs and symptoms of exposure: Generally, there are no signs or symptoms of exposure to crystalline silica (quartz).
  • Inhalation: No specific first aid is necessary since the adverse health effects associated with exposure to crystalline silica (quartz) result from chronic exposures. If there is a gross inhalation of crystalline silica (quartz), remove the person immediately to fresh air, give artificial respiration as needed, seek medical attention as needed.
  • Eye contact: Wash immediately with water. If irritation persists, seek medical attention.

Precautions during handling and use:

  • Do not breathe dust.
  • Use adequate ventilation and dust collection. Keep airborne dust concentrations below permissible exposure limit (PEL).
  • Do not rely on your sight to determine if dust is in the air.
  • Respirable crystalline silica dust may be in the air without a visible dust cloud.




About Smitty