WA’s respiratory institute welcomes ban on engineered stone - Institute for Respiratory Health

WA’s respiratory institute welcomes ban on engineered stone

Sunday, June 30, 2024 | News

Today, the Institute for Respiratory Health welcomes a ban on the use of engineered stone products. It makes Australia the first country to implement such a policy. It’s aimed at protecting workers from silicosis, a severe and irreversible lung disease caused by silica dust

Engineered stone, widely used for kitchen benchtops, has been linked to a surge in lung diseases among Australian workers. While the ban is a significant milestone, transitional arrangements will allow certain engineered stone work to continue in some states and territories until 31 December 2024.

Melita Markey, Director of the Institute for Respiratory Health, said the ban was a vital step forward in protecting the lung health of Australian workers.

“Recent research indicates that one in four stonemasons will develop silicosis, a potentially fatal yet entirely preventable disease linked to silica dust exposure,” Ms Markey said.

“Silicosis is an incurable lung disease, and early intervention is crucial.

“Although this policy is a welcome relief, it has come too late for many. Many struggle to breathe, requiring lung transplants and facing premature death. Immediate public health funding for lung disease research and pastoral care is essential.

“We must ensure these workers and their families do not endure tragic deaths similar to asbestos victims, despite an asbestos ban.

“We hope to see steps to provide research funding in this space.”

At least 579 Australians are currently diagnosed with silicosis and up to 600,000 workers are exposed to silica dust. Long-term exposure predictions are alarming, with estimates suggesting that around 10,000 Australians could develop lung cancer and up to 103,000 workers could be diagnosed with silicosis over their lifetimes due to silica dust exposure at work.

As Australia sets a precedent with this significant policy change, the Institute urges other countries that use engineered stone to follow and stresses the need for global awareness and collaboration in addressing occupational lung diseases.

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