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Union ramps up push to ban ‘asbestos of the 2020s’

There’s a fresh push to ban engineered stone commonly used in kitchen benchtops and linked to an incurable lung disease likened to asbestosis.

Feb 20, 2023, updated Feb 20, 2023
Engineered stone is cheaper than naturally occurring stone but dust created during the manufacturing process can pose a serious health risk. (Image: Shutterstock)

Engineered stone is cheaper than naturally occurring stone but dust created during the manufacturing process can pose a serious health risk. (Image: Shutterstock)

A prominent union will ban members working with the product by mid next year unless the government stops it being imported and used Australia-wide.

Stonemason Kyle Goodwin was just 33 when diagnosed with silicosis after years of cutting, shaping and polishing engineered stone benchtops.

He received the devastating diagnosis four and a half years ago and his medical team predicted he had just five years left before the disease claimed his life.

Engineered stone is cheaper than naturally occurring stone but dust created during the manufacturing process can pose a serious health risk.

Some governments have already moved to reform the industry, with the dry cutting of stone banned in Queensland in 2018, Victoria in 2019 and NSW in 2020.

Diagnosed cases of silicosis have jumped over the last decade and unions are calling on state governments to outlaw the material as they push for stronger protections for 600,000 workers exposed to silica dust.

Goodwin is the face of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union’s campaign to ban the product altogether.

“Instead of planning a family, we’re planning my funeral,” he says in the advertisement.

“I used to install kitchen benches. People liked engineered stone because it was cheap. But the dust got into my lungs causing deadly, incurable silicosis.

“That’s too high a price for anyone to pay.

“Nothing will save my life but if you join the campaign to stop the importation and manufacture of engineered stone, you can help save someone else’s. Please.”

About one in four stonemasons who work with the product suffer from serious lung diseases and workers involved in mining, quarrying, manufacturing, building and construction can also be exposed to silica dust.

Engineered stone is the asbestos of the 2020’s, according to the union’s Incoming National Secretary Zach Smith.

“Australian workers like Kyle are dying because of engineered stone,” Mr Smith said.

“The companies flooding our markets with this cheap and nasty material know that but to them profits are more important than people’s lives.”

Asbestos was banned 70 years after the dangers of the product were first known and Australian Council of Trade Unions assistant secretary Liam O’Brien said authorities should not delay banning engineered stone.

“We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past,” O’Brien said.

 

-AAP

 

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