News in brief: 3 respiratory researchers receive prestigious ERS award; Victorian study shows adverse respiratory effects of e-cigarettes; Call for silicosis action as taskforce report handed to health minister;

Thursday, 8 Jul 2021

3 respiratory researchers receive prestigious ERS award

Three Australian respiratory medicine specialists have been announced as recipients of the Fellow of European Respiratory Society (FERS) award , which recognises excellence and outstanding contributions in research, education and clinical leadership.

Professor Jodie Simpson is a respiratory medicine researcher at the University of Newcastle, where she is Deputy Director of the Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases.

Her colleague at the University of Newcastle, Conjoint Professor Peter Gibson is co-director of the Centre for Excellence in Treatable Traits in NSW and is also named as an ERS Fellow.

In Victoria, Professor Shyamali Dharmage is a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, where she is Head of the Allergy and Lung Health Unit (ALHU), Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.

Up to 50 Fellows are selected each year and recipients may use the designation ‘FERS’ following their name. FERS awardees are also inducted into an elite advisory board that will be called upon by the Society on various matters in future years

Victorian study shows adverse respiratory effects of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes and vaping have been linked in an Australian study to worse respiratory symptoms and some aspects of lung function.

A respiratory survey of 519 adults in the Hazelwood region of Victoria affected by coal mine fire found that 9% of people were e-cigarette users, and this group had a higher prevalence of chest tightness (Odds Ratio 2.4) and self-reported asthma (63% vs. 12%) than non-users.

The study also found a potential adverse effects of e-cigarettes on lung mechanics, with significantly higher rates of lung reactance measured by forced oscillation technique (FOT)

However, there was no difference in lung function measured by spirometry between e-cigarette users and non-users. There was also no difference in most respiratory symptoms except for chest tightness.

Study co-author Professor Michael Abramson and colleagues from Monash University said the findings of adverse effects supported a recent TSANZ position paper that said there should be tighter regulations on e-cigarettes, given the likely association with worsened asthma symptoms.

More details: Respirology

Call for silicosis action as taskforce report handed to health minister

Unions representing 600,000 workers at risk of silicosis after being exposed to dust in the workplace have called on government to bring in strong national regulation of the stone-cutting industry and implement a national health screening program to identify those at risk.

As the National Dust Disease Taskforce handed down its final report into silica dust exposure to health minister Greg Hunt  on 30 June, the AWU sent a delegation to parliament to call for a national notifiable dust disease system, with a system of mandatory reporting to a centralised occupational lung disease register. The union also wants nationally consistent regulation outlining minimum safety benchmarks and mandatory health monitoring across all industries where workers are exposed to silica dust, with penalties on employers for non-compliance.

The AWU said the taskforce’s recommendations for reform should also be broadened so they are not restricted to the stone-benchtop industry, but all workplaces exposed to silica dust.

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