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Greens Push to Ban Engineered Stone from Australia

news
October 23 2019

By Nicholas Hartman

Pressure is increasing from Members of the Greens party to ban manufactured stone goods from Australia due to the workers dying from silicosis caused by dust created from the stone.

Greens MP David Shoebridge called on the Government last Friday for an immediate ban on dry cutting and to come up with a solution of how to phase the product out of workplaces.

The renewed call to ban engineered stone comes from the confirmation of dozens of new cases of silicosis, that authorities say could be more of a health crisis than asbestos.

“Right now, there are workers in their 20’s and 30’s with potentially terminal diagnoses of silicosis because this government has failed to properly control the manufactured stone industry,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“We know the use of X-rays fails to detect silicosis in up to 40% of cases and lung screening needs to move immediately from x-rays to low dose CT scans to ensure not a single case is undiagnosed.

“There can’t be any more delay or any more excuses, there are literally hundreds of lives at risk.”

Earlier in the week South Australian Greens MP Tammy Franks spoke in Parliament and also called for a ban saying “there is no safe level of silica dust”.

The call from the Greens MPs is a result of the federal government’s inaction due to occupational health and safety being a state-based issue rather than a national one.

Silicosis is a potentially fatal lung disease which is caused by breathing in silica dust particles found in kitchen benchtops and bathroom basins.

When inhaled, the silica particles embed themselves into sacs and ducts in the lungs preventing the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

According to the Cancer Council, the particles are 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, meaning you can be breathing it in without knowing.

There has been a recent surge in workers developing silicosis across Australia, with 260 cases including 166 in Queensland, 61 in Victoria, 23 in NSW, 3 in WA and one each in the ACT and Sa, according to the ABC.

The matter has prompted the Queensland Government to set up a Notifiable Dust Lung Disease Register, which includes information for patients and how to make a notification.

Earlier this year, Employsure’s Manager of Health and Safety Larry Drewsen said it was essential that employers in affected industries were aware of best practice safety standards when using, cutting or handling silica.

“It’s absolutely essential that workers who may be cutting or handling silica particles are given the appropriate safety equipment, and trained in how to use it,” he said.

“But more than that, it’s vital that employers and site managers are communicating and enforcing safe work policies and procedures to protect their staff. When inhaled silica can scar the lungs and cause irreversible damage.

“Young workers exposed to silica without the adequate safety equipment are at risk of developing a preventable lung disease that could seriously affect their quality of life, or in serious cases be fatal.”