The Cancer Council is urging Australians to be more aware of cancer risks in the workplace, after new estimates suggest over 230 lung cancer cases are caused by silica dust exposure.
60 000 Australian workers are exposed to silica dust in the workplace, including miners, construction workers, farmers, engineers, bricklayers, road construction workers, and those working in demolition. Cancer Council Occupational and Environmental Cancer Risk Committee Chair, Terry Slevin, said too many workers were unaware of how common and dangerous the substance is.
“Silica is surprisingly common – it’s found in stone, rock, sand, gravel and clay, as well as bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic materials. When these materials are worked on or cut, silica is released as a fine dust that’s 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. It’s so small you can’t see it – but if you breathe it in, in some cases it can lead to lung cancer.”
“We continually see workers cutting granite kitchen bench-tops, tiles or bricks, or demolishing materials without proper protection in place, which is a very real concern.”
Mr. Slevin said all silica dust lung cancer cases were preventable through dust prevention or control, adequate ventilation, or personal respiratory equipment. He also said it was vital that employers and employees took the necessary steps to protect themselves now, considering lung cancer has a poor survival rate.
“Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe place to work. Likewise, those working with silica need to take responsibility for their future health, get informed and protect themselves.”
“If you are regularly demolishing materials, sandcasting, sandblasting, bricklaying or cutting stone, tiles or bricks as a part of your job, you are at risk, so you need to get informed today.”
“Proper protection is a lot more than just wearing a dust mask. It includes on-site ventilation, using specialised tools with appropriate blades and dust suppression features and a range of other important safeguards.”
For more information, the Cancer Council has published a new fact sheet on silica and cancer risk, available here.
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