Queensland’s first cases of Silicosis, an occupational lung disease, has been found in stone masons working with artificial stone.
Traditionally Silicosis has presented in coal miners, but tragically, this week six Queensland stone masons have now been diagnosed with terminal Silicosis.
Manufactured stone is a popular choice for kitchen and bathroom benches. The silica content in artificial stone is very high ( greater than 90%). Consequently, the cutting process of manufactured stone products creates a significant risk to a worker’s lung health. Large amounts of silica dust are produced, potentially inhaled, and as a result, can lead to the development of Silicosis.
Following a workplace health and safety investigation, Queensland Industrial Relations minister Grace Grace has issued an alert for those working in the manufactured stone industry. Dr Newbigin, a specialist chest radiologist at Unitingcare Medical Imaging, was interviewed alongside Grace Grace, Jeanette Young, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, and Bruce Watson, from Work Cover, regarding the recent findings.
“Silicosis is a degenerative disease of the lungs with no known cure. The disease can remain asymptomatic for some time. Once diagnosed, however, it can lead to patients requiring medical support, and in some cases, lung transplants”, said Dr Newbigin.
An advocate for the well being of worker’s at risk of silicosis, Dr Newbigin works closely with the Queensland government and medical specialities to prioritise the health care of these workers.
The Wesley Dust Disease Research Centre (WDDRC) is a medical research institute founded by Dr Newbigin, with the support of Uniting Care Medical Imaging. The WDDRC assists in the understanding of occupational lung diseases such as Silicosis and Black Lung Disease. Following the correlation of Silicosis to artificial stone manufacturing, the WDDRC is currently collaborating with Australia’s leading experts to further research into workers affected by exposure to Silica dust.