What Does After-Service Refractory Ceramic Fiber (ARCF) Mean?
After-service refractory ceramic fibers (ARCFs) are refractory ceramic fibers (RCFs) that have been subjected to heat greater than 1,800oF (1,000oC). This exposure causes the RCF to be partially converted to cristobalite, a type of silica polymorph (crystal). ARCF may also be referred to as RCF4.
Airborne after-service RCF fibers are a highly toxic respirable hazard. The individual fibers are very small (measured in micrometers, μm) and can cause severe respiratory damage if they are inhaled and penetrate into lung tissue.
Safeopedia Explains After-Service Refractory Ceramic Fiber (ARCF)
Refractory ceramic fibers are used in a variety of industries, which makes the dangers posed by after-service refractory ceramic fibers a relatively common occupational health and safety concern
RCF are an amorphous, artificially produced substance that is created either by melting calcine kaolin clay or by combining alumina (aluminum oxide) and silica (silicon dioxide). They are commonly used as insulation, reinforcement, and fire protection material for furnaces, heaters, kiln linings, furnace doors, metal launders, and other products that are designed to be exposed to high temperatures. Industries which use large amounts of RCF include the steel, petrochemical, ceramic, automotive, and primary metal industries.
ARCFs primarily pose a hazard when they are being removed from the workplace within which they were used, as this disturbance of the material causes the fibers to become airborne. Respiratory exposure to the airborne cristobalite (crystalline silica) that these fibers contain can cause significant health problems, ranging from short-term irritation to silicosis, an occupational disease that can cause chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Silicosis is progressive, incurable, and potentially fatal. As the scarring caused by the disease causes lung tissue to harden over time, the afflicted person’s lung function will continuously decrease. It can also cause heart disease. Workers that have been exposed to silica, even if they do not have silicosis, are also at increased risk of lung cancer and tuberculosis.
OHS authorities require and/or recommend a variety of solutions to prevent worker exposure to respirable ARCF. These include the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, wetting the ARCF in order to reduce the amount of fibers it releases into the air, and worker exposure limits. For example, NIOSH recommends that workers use a supplied-air respirator with full-facepiece when removing ARCF. OSHA also maintains a specific standard (1910.1053) for work that involves exposure to respirable crystalline silica.