Doctors around Australia are being pressured by one of the largest law firms in the country to check our young tradies for signs and symptoms the potentially fatal lung disease called Silicosis, which is caused by the inhalation of silica particles.
The following article by Brisbane Times has revealed the extent of the Silicosis crisis unravelling amongst our tradies. (source: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/doctors-urged-to-look-for-life-threatening-silicosis-in-young-tradies-20180821-p4zyqt.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_feed)
Shine Lawyers, which is campaigning to ban workplace practices that can cause silicosis, has warned the disease could be Australia’s next mesothelioma crisis, citing similar slow-burning cases of illness amongst tradies who worked with asbestos until it was banned in the 1980’s.
Shine Lawyers’ dust disease expert Roger Singh said young tradies in their 30s and 40s are reporting cases of silicosis, a progressive and irreversible disease triggered by dust from artificial or engineered stone, which holds 95 per cent more silica than natural stone.
Mr Singh said the company had met with Queensland and New South Wales state governments to discuss banning the process of dry stone-cutting, and were planning to meet with the ACT and Victorian governments in coming weeks.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said Workplace Health and Safety Queensland had recently undertaken 10 pilot audits of stone bench top manufacturers.
“These audits involved extensive air monitoring to determine silica exposure levels to ensure appropriate safety measures are in place to protect workers from exposure to silica dust,” she said.
“Several statutory notices were issued as part of the audit.
“Stage two of the WHSQ audit campaign is underway. All Queensland stone bench top manufacturers will be audited by the end of 2018.
“WHSQ will also develop a stone bench top code of practice in consultation with key stakeholders.”
Mr Singh said he was “shocked” at how many calls the company had received since launching their campaign in July.
Artificial stone is used in many kitchen and bathroom benchtops, and is safe in whole form but kicks up plumes of dust when cut dry.
The dust causes fibrotic nodules in the lungs, reducing the patients’ ability to breathe: there is no cure.
Mr Singh said he was urging doctors to brush up on the symptoms of silicosis and ask young tradies about their lung health.
“Young men who turn up at the doctors office with persistent chest infections or on-going breathing difficulties could be exposed to dust in the workplace and might be in the early stages of silicosis,” he said.
“We are not criticising doctors at all, this is a disease which had been in decline the world over and is now seeing a re-emergence in certain occupations such as stonemasonry.
“It is not something many current or recently qualified doctors may have seen in their careers.
“If your patient is having breathing difficulties and they have worked in one of these jobs then refer them to specialists to check for silicosis.”
Gold Coast stonemason Anthony White, 36, was diagnosed with silicosis in November 2017 after 10 years of working as a stonemason.
Mr White spent countless hours in hospital, losing weight and struggling to breathe.
“I want to make sure no one else has to go through this,” he said.
“It’s been absolutely horrendous for me and my family who have had to watch me get sicker and sicker.”
A register for people concerned they have been exposed to silicosis has been established, with Mr Singh urging anyone exposed to silica dust or diagnosed with silicosis to sign up.