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NSW government refuses to ban silica stone

May 25, 2023

The NSW Government has refused to endorse an outright ban on engineered stone, a product that produces silica dust which can cause lung cancer.

“We should accept the fact that some pretty powerful forces are organising on this issue to stop reform,” NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said during parliamentary debate last night.

Without a ban unions have estimated that 100,000 workers could contract the deadly lung disease, including silicosis which occurs when silica dust is inhaled.

“Failure to act decisively on this issue is a betrayal. Workers are being sold out and condemned to a death sentence because this government is more attentive to the wishes of big business than the health and safety of construction and manufacturing workers in this state, Green MP Abigail Boyd said.

“The explosion of silicosis cases in our workforce is a tragedy and is made all the more tragic by how preventable it is,” she said.

A motion put forward by the Greens called on the Government to uphold the recommendations of the unions, peak health organisations and workers to place an outright ban on engineered stone.

But last night, Labor rejected the ban instead supporting a “nationally uniform ban on manufactured stone with a silica concentration above 40 per cent.”

Mr Mookhey said today that the “powerful forces” he was referring to are Caesarstone, the world’s largest manufacturer of silica related products to do with engineered stone. Caesarstone products have a 90% concentration of silica in their products.

“There is no safe level of silica exposure. Victoria has regulated engineered stone to silica concentrations below 40 per cent, and still workers are being exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust and contracting silicosis,” Ms Boyd said.

“We are witnessing the asbestos of the 2020s and like the Government did with asbestos, they have chosen to sit on their hands as workers are dying across the state,” she said.

Silicosis is an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. It is caused by inhaling silica dust.

Engineered stone is commonly used for kitchen benches and contains high levels of silica.

 

 

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