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Artificial Stone and Silica – Australia warns of future ban on importation

The use of artificial stone shows no sign of reducing – US imports for example rose 800 % between the years 2010 and 2018.

The enduring trend for artificial stone in kitchen and bathroom worktops continues to exert upward pressure on silicosis and COPD rates worldwide.

This week, the Federal Task Force in Australia stopped short of introducing a ban on importation, but indicated it will do so with effect from July 2024, unless industry changes its approach to the management and protection of employees to silica risks.

Whilst nearly all building and construction materials contain respirable crystalline silica (RCS), artificial stone can contain up to 90 % silica in comparison to marble (3 %), or granite (30 %).

Consequently, this high concentration means a shorter period of exposure may trigger respiratory conditions – commonly silicosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In our previous article “Silicosis – the next asbestos?” 
we examined how the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Respiratory Health called for the Workplace Exposure Limit in the UK to be reduced from 0.1 mg/m3 to 0.5 mg/m3 and indicated that 600,000 UK workers were exposed to silica dust - primarily in the construction industry.

A number of studies, notably the meta analysis by Leso and others concluded that artificial stone was responsible for an “unusually high incidence of disease reported over a short period of exposure”.

The use of artificial stone shows no sign of reducing – US imports for example rose 800 % between the years 2010 and 2018. We suspect that unless the All Party Parliamentary Committee recommendations are enacted and subsequently followed by employers, Australia will not be the only country to consider a ban on the importation of artificial stone.

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