Health experts urge action on managing silica stone benchtop waste - Institute for Respiratory Health

Health experts urge action on managing silica stone benchtop waste

Friday, April 28, 2023 | News

On World Day for Health and Safety at Work, two of the State’s top advocates for lung health are urging Local, State and Federal Governments, to take action on managing engineered silica stone waste in the workplace and at home.

The Institute for Respiratory Health (IRH) and the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA) welcomed the recent decision by State and Federal Ministers to regulate silica dust exposure and explore the possibility of banning the deadly product to safeguard tradies and home renovators.

“But there is a larger public health issue at play that hasn’t been considered,” Ms Melita Markey, CEO of ADSA said.

“Engineered stone benchtops, which contain high levels of crystalline silica, are present in thousands of homes and apartment buildings across the country.

“When they are no longer fashionable, the inevitable removal and disposal of these benchtops will pose a potential health risk to homeowners, tradies, and local authorities; particularly as the process will create large amounts of silica dust and rubble destined for landfill.

“We need to learn from our past mistakes and prepare for the safe removal of stone benches. Despite asbestos being banned in Australia two decades ago, it remains a major issue as one in three homes still contains this hazardous material.

“Even after all this time, we do not have an effective strategy to remove and dispose of asbestos – every local authority has a different approach and it is cost prohibitive for many homeowners and small businesses.

“We can’t afford to make the same mistake twice.

“We need to implement a cost-effective strategy and prioritise the safe disposal of engineered stone waste to prevent the emergence of another public health crisis.

“A ban on engineered stone products is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t address the issue of how outdated benchtops will be disposed of. If this isn’t tackled, sadly more lives will be lost.”

Professor Fraser Brims, a research expert in occupational related lung diseases from IRH said, “The current outlook for those suffering from silicosis is tough as there is no cure or effective treatments. Many of those affected are young workers with families.

“It’s important that we screen anyone who has worked with artificial stone for silicosis as soon as possible.

“And more silicosis research is required to help patients lead a better quality of life and maybe one day find a cure.

“In the meantime, it’s a preventable disease. But if we don’t do anything we’re going to see more people present with this incurable condition, particularly tradies who are exposed to the toxic material.”

The lung health experts are calling for a comprehensive waste management strategy to be developed, including clear guidelines for the safe removal and disposal of engineered stone waste.

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