Engineered stone can contain very large amounts of crystalline silica. The fabrication of engineered stone benchtops can result in high concentrations of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust, which can lead to accelerated silicosis. It is a serious health condition that we are learning about to ensure future cases can be prevented.

The health risks of working with RCS for stonemasons, tunnelers, miners, and concrete workers have been known for more than 100 years.

Accelerated silicosis is a progressive lung disease caused by exposure to high levels of silica dust, common in engineered stone cutting. It is a more aggressive form of silicosis that appears sooner and may progress faster than chronic silicosis.

The aggressiveness of accelerated silicosis is due to the concentration of RCS in engineered stone benchtops popular in kitchens and bathrooms, combined with a lack of adequate preventative or protective measures in workplaces that fabricate the product.

There is minimal risk to people who follow health and safety regulations and guidance for working with stone products. We have extensive guidance on our website, and some of the guidance has been translated into multiple languages.

However, people who work with engineered stone benchtops can be at serious risk of exposure to RCS dust. This dust is created when materials containing crystalline silica are cut, ground, drilled, polished or otherwise disturbed, releasing RCS into the air.

Engineered stone benchtop workers may not be aware that they are developing a respiratory disease. And those with respiratory symptoms may not have silicosis but may have other conditions such as asthma, smoking-related conditions, infections or allergies.

Engineered stone can contain in excess of 90% crystalline silica, which is considerably higher than natural stone such as granite with less than 45% silica. RCS particles are extremely small and often invisible to the naked eye.

Further information and resources:

www.breathefreely.co.nz(external link)