A decision could be made today on whether Australia will be the first country in the world to ban engineered stone due to the risk of silicosis to workers, during a meeting of work, health and safety ministers.
Silicosis is a preventable ‘occupational lung disease’ that is caused by breathing crystalline silica dust, causing lung inflammation and fibrosis. There is no cure.
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Read more of Associate Professor Bourke’s commentary at Monash Lens, read more about her achievements on Monash News and visit the Bourke Lab website for more information about her research.
- More than 20 years’ research on finding new treatments for chronic lung diseases
- Her current project leading a research program into “Establishing a novel human model for anti-fibrotic drug screening in silicosis” is funded by the Dust Diseases Board/iCARE NSW
The following can be attributed to Associate Professor Bourke:
“Advocacy for the banning of engineered stone from all health sectors, including clinicians and medical researchers from Monash University, is based on unequivocal evidence that there is no safe level of exposure to silica dust – it’s taken too long for this action to be taken to protect workers from silicosis.
“Ongoing monitoring of the estimated 10,000 Australians currently in the engineered stone workforce will still be required as more cases emerge due to prior exposure to this dangerous dust.
“For the hundreds of workers already diagnosed with this totally preventable but currently incurable disease, a ban would come too late – but at least further cases may be reduced or prevented.
“Engineered stone benchtops have become so popular in Australia, it’s critical that we take the lead with a world-first ban. We must value lives ahead of industry profits as we continue our research to understand how this devastating disease damages the lungs and try to find effective treatments for those already affected.”
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Read more of Dr Hoy’s commentary at Monash Lens
- More than 15 years experience treating patients with occupational lung disease.
- Head of the Occupational Respiratory Clinic at the Alfred Hospital
- Chief investigator of the world’s largest study of stone benchtop industry workers, which has identified that 117 out of 414 (28.2 per cent) of Victorian stone benchtop industry workers screened by CT have silicosis.
The following can be attributed to Dr Hoy:
“A decision by Australian governments to ban engineered stone would be a highly significant moment in the response to the worst outbreak of occupational lung disease in generations. Elimination of engineered stone is clearly the most effective means to protect workers in this industry.
“Over 600 Australian stone benchtop industry workers have already been diagnosed with silicosis, and due to high levels of silica exposure, thousands more will remain at risk of disease for decades to come.
“Urgent government funding is required to provide free ongoing health monitoring for workers who have been exposed to dangerous levels of silica, and to find new effective treatments for silicosis.
“No one should contract a disease from going to work. Over 600 workers with silicosis caused by working in the stone benchtop industry is completely unacceptable. Governments must learn from this avoidable epidemic of silicosis. We need to do much better to identify new and emerging hazards at workplaces before people become sick.”
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