Stricter silica rules in Australia will save lives and money

Preventing just five deaths a year in Australia caused by exposure to respirable silica would cover all the costs of far stricter controls on the cancer and lung disease-causing dust.

Curtin University occupational cancer researchers Renee Carey and Lin Fritschi warn that that without this action, Australian workers over a working lifetime will develop more than 10,000 future lung cancers, or a ‘future excess fraction’ of around 1 per cent of all the lung cancers in the Australian adult population.

Preventable exposures would also result in more than 80,000 cases of the often deadly lung scarring disease silicosis.

Stopping workers from entering areas near crushers on mine sites would prevent 750 lung cancers and almost 7,500 silicosis cases, they note. They added banning engineered stone could save up to 700 young workers from developing these diseases.

The future burden of lung cancer and silicosis from occupational silica exposure in Australia: A preliminary analysis. Curtin University report commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), 2022. The Conversation.

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