The issue of silicosis has been drawing a lot of attention in recent times as the number of stoneworkers with the condition rises.
Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock, and mineral ores such as quartz.
Today the Greens have called for a ban on manufactured stone to prevent more workers dying from silicosis.
Manufactures or engineered stone, is a composite material made of crushed stone bound together by an adhesive, is a huge culprit in the growing number of silicosis incidents.
Engineered ‘marble’ a common application in new homes
Engineered ‘marble’ is the most common application as indoor flooring and walls, while the quartz based product is used primarily for kitchen benchtops.
The NSW Parliament will debate a motion brought on by Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge to ban the use of manufactured stone.
The motion follows evidence heard by the Law and Justice Committee in Parliament last week that there is no safe exposure level to silica dust created by cutting manufactured stone.
Shoebridge said the NSW Parliament has heard evidence from Dr Chris Colquhoun the Chief Medical Officer of Icare, that any time you are cutting manufactured stone you have to make the assumption that if you breathe the stuff in you are going to die. ‘Parliament will be negligent in its duties to the people of NSW if does not act,’ said Shoebridge.
Physicians evidence – silicosis is worse than asbestos
‘Dr Graeme Edwards from The Royal Australasian College of Physicians gave evidence that silicosis is worse than asbestos, we heard evidence from a doctor whose youngest patient is 23.
‘Silicosis is killing workers with young families, affecting people whose entire lives should be ahead of them.
According to Icare, there were 40 cases of silicosis reported in NSW in 2018-19, up from eight the previous financial year. ‘This figure almost certainly underestimates the number of cases.’
Shoebridge said that there are thousands of workers in the manufactured stone industry in NSW, all of who are exposed to silica dust, often at appallingly high levels.
‘We cannot afford to wait any longer we must act now to prevent further deaths and ban cutting manufactured stone.
‘All political parties should put the lives of workers above the demand for shiny bench-tops and support our call to ban manufactured stone products,’ he said.
Yes indeed I agreed with the serious need to halt this manufactured stone along with the cutting of same. I see when it is cut gases are given off as well as particles from the materials mixed in to create this stone. People buy this as an affordable alternative for a good appearance in their homes. Man made products of this type need to be very carefully scrutinised so employees/workers directly involved do not have their health wellbeing destroyed in the process. Even using water cooling during cutting I believe can still create problems.
It’s all well and good for anyone who hasn’t left the inner west at any time in their life, but what does the Greens political party member suggest we use on our kitchen bench tops? Old growth wood? What does he have on his kitchen bench?
Having worked in the housing construction industry for nearly 40 years I have seen the emergence of Quartz (Manfactured) Stone as a popular choice for Kitchen Benchtops. This product has all but replaced natural stone which apart from High Pressure Laminate (Laminex, Formica et all) and Timber are the main choices available.
There is a smaller section of the Bench Top market that is referred to as ‘Solid Surface’ which offer Bench Tops in either an Acrylic or Polyester manufactured half inch sheet. These have been around for all of my career in the industry and there have been no reported cases of Health Problems that I have heard of.
While having a preference for Solid Surface, I believe the knee jerk reaction of banning Quartz Stone is unwarranted. Had the proposers of this move made themselves aware of what is happening in the industry they would have had a different opinion.
The problem with machining Quartz Stone dry is the dust, exactly the same as it was for the miners of old. Addition of water solved the problem for the miners and is doing the same for stone masons
What a ludicrous proposal. What’s next, because standing behind a running car and breathing in harmful exhaust may cause cancer we should now consider banning cars too?!?!
The fact is, what the government needs to do is focus on the real problem, which is lack of safety oversight and regulations that protects the stone mason and provides guidelines on how to properly work with these materials. As stated by a previous comment, when these materials are cut with the use of water, there is 0% chance of inhaling the silica.
Also, although it isn’t mentioned, these same safety regulations need to be put in place for all “Stone” products as the silicosis risk has the same risk of exposure when cutting granite, marble and all other natural stone materials.
To me, this is a bit of an unfounded witch hunt against a material or industry of materials versus addressing a systemic failure in worker safety oversight.
I’m from Spain were this quartz materials are in the market since the 90’s. If you cut this materials dry without water the exposure to silica is high. The main problem are in the instalation of kitchen tops at homes. Most of this instalations are done in dry .This continuous exposure injures your lungs little by little. Most ilness appears many years after exposure, so much more cases will come out in next years. In Spain several people have died due to the exposure of silica. That’s the main reason for some manufacturers of cquartz conglomerates to start elsborating porcelain slabs. In some years as more deaths due to silice quartz exposure appears, most countris will ban this materials.