Silica dust exposure is being attributed to over 230 lung cancer cases in Australia each year.
The new estimate attempting to quantify damage from occupational exposure to invisible crystalline silica was released by the Cancer Council Australia, which estimates 600,000 Australian workers are exposed annually, including those working in mining, construction and agriculture.
In August, a NSW government report described the re-emergence of silicosis – the progressive lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust – “evidence of a significant failure in our work health safety regime” after several cases were diagnosed in Caesarstone manufacture workers.
Cancer Council occupational and environmental cancer risk committee Terry Slevin said it was a major concern that workers continued to cut granite kitchen benchtops, tiles or bricks, or demolishing materials without proper protection in place.
“Proper protection is a lot more than just wearing a dust mask. It includes on-site ventilation, using specialised tools with appropriate blades and dust suppression features and a range of other important safeguards”.
The NSW state government in August released the findings of its Legislative Council First Review of the Dust Diseases Scheme.
The report recommends the “urgent” establishment of a taskforce to consider regulation to protect workers in the manufactured stone industry.