Silica is a basic component in sand and rock, and is used in many materials found throughout Simon Fraser University including concrete, ceramics, brick, plaster and more. These materials do not pose a health hazard unless they are disturbed. For general inquiries about hazardous building materials, please contact


Health risks

Silica-containing materials are only a health risk when they are disturbed and the silica becomes airborne and inhaled.

Health effects can follow after very high exposure after a few weeks to 5 years (acute silicosis), after high concentrations over 5 to 10 years (accelerated silicosis), or after low concentrations over 10+ years (chronic silicosis).  This can cause thickening of the lungs with scar tissue, which can result in lung cancer and possibly death.

As a member of university community:

  • Be aware that silica is present within many different materials on campus and it may be found in the buildings you occupy
  • Understand that if silica-containing materials are intact and in good condition that it does not pose a health concern
  • Refrain from damaging building materials as they could potentially contain silica
  • Do not rip or uninstall items off of walls, floors or ceilings

Inform your supervisor and EHS if you notice debris or damaged building materials such as walls, floors or ceilings