ABC (AU): Silicosis surge prompts more calls for a ban on engineered stone products

New figures show a surge in the number of cases of silicosis, according to an article on the ABC (AU) website. A Silicosis taskforce member says every case of silicosis is evidence of system failure and NSW accused of failing to respond adequately to the crisis

New figures obtained by 7.30 show a surge in new cases. There are now 260 cases across Australia, with 166 in Queensland, 61 in Victoria, 23 in NSW, 5 in Tasmania, 3 in WA, and 1 each in the ACT and SA. In SA there are also 66 cases where workers need specialist follow-up.

The Queensland case numbers have more than tripled since November, when the state had 53 diagnosed cases.

The industry insists the cutting process can be done safely.

Engineered stone has silica levels of up to 90 per cent, and when it is cut and polished fine dust particles are released.

Dr Graeme Edwards warns that the problem is only going to get bigger.

"It gets down into the bottom of the lung and that triggers a scarring reaction in the lung," Dr Graeme Edwards, occupational physician and member of the national taskforce on silicosis and other dust diseases, told 7.30.

"Essentially it clogs up and distorts the lung so it can't work. I'm aware of two deaths, one in Queensland and one in NSW. I'm aware of at least two transplants. And I know that there are more people being lined up for potential lung transplants."

"We're talking in the hundreds, some will die within 12 months, some will die within five years," he said.

7.30 has exclusively obtained audits of two Gold Coast businesses under right to information laws.

In 2018, an inspector took photographs of dust inside a workshop run by Marble and Granite Specialists despite them using wet cutting techniques.

Dr Edwards said the pictures showed a concerning level of dust.

"They show a surface contamination in the background, in the footprints, on the forklift, that means there was past exposure to high levels of dust," he said.

Dr Edwards believes that "while there may not have been dust activity at the time the photos were taken, clearly there was activity in the recent past which tells us there was substantial exposure in this particular workplace".

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