What is Accelerated Silicosis?
It is an irreversible and progressive lung disease. It causes fibrosis of the lungs from the inhalation of RCS (Respirable Crystalline Silica).
Engineered stone benchtops have become increasingly popular for kitchens and bathrooms. Made from mixing finely crushed rock with polymeric resin, moulded into slabs and heat-cured. Unlike natural stone, which comprises of approx. 5-30% silica, artificial or engineered stone contains more than 90% silica.
Risk of RCS exposure is found with stone workers while cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing stone benchtops during manufacturing and installation. The disease is caused by breathing particles of crystalline silica over a short period of 5-10 years, irreversibly damaging a person’s lungs.
Leading Occupational physician, Dr Alexandra Wuthu advises it’s important not to panic, there is no need to rush to your GP or ED. Dr Wuthu is leading a newly formed taskforce, with Worksafe, ACC and the Ministry of Health. They are formulating a plan, so those affected could be properly diagnosed.
Before starting work using engineered stone, businesses must complete a risk assessment and review their controls. It is important to consider eliminating uncontrolled dry cutting, grinding or polishing of engineered stone.
If this is not possible then exposures must be minimised. Options include:
If a risk still remains, use the appropriate personal protective equipment:
For further information: https://worksafe.govt.nz/about-us/news-and-media/accelerated-silicosis/https://worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/dust-and-fumes/dust/silica-dust-in-the-workplace/ and https://worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/dust-and-fumes/dust/accelerated-silicosis-form/
Reminder: 2019 Metal Health Awareness Week is the 23 – 29 September