Slater and Gordon has today launched a National Silicosis Register to support Australians who have been exposed to the potentially fatal dust, Crystalline Silica.
Like the firm’s ground-breaking Asbestos register, the Silicosis register would allow people to register potential exposure and assist them to access appropriate medical and financial support.
It will also aim to collect data and increased knowledge of the exposures that lead to the disease.
Slater and Gordon dust diseases lawyer Claire Setches said workers and their families may be entitled to compensation through superannuation, insurance policies and workers compensation schemes.
Crystalline Silica has been present in small doses in bricks and concrete in Australia for decades, but in the past 16 years has been in much higher concentrations in materials, such as artificial stone-top benchtops.
Consequently, those who cut kitchen and bathroom benchtops as well as workers in the construction, demolition and mining industries are at particular risk.
Silicosis – like asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and specific lung cancers – is a condition that develops following the exposure/inhalation of dust particles, which if left undisturbed are perfectly safe.
However, unlike asbestos, those exposed to disturbed particles can start to feel symptoms as soon as one to two years after exposure and as a result it can strike down people in their 20s and 30s.
Symptoms of asbestos-related disease can take decades to show. Severe progressive silicosis can develop just three years after exposure with the only known medical intervention currently being a lung transplant.
Senior Slater and Gordon dust diseases lawyer Claire Setches said Crystalline Silica-based items were often cut in the construction industry, emitting tiny particles, which can only be picked on X-Ray, once they were lodged in a person’s lungs.
“Unfortunately, there are almost no available medical therapies and, even more concerning, little data about the number of people who have been exposed to the dust,” Ms Setches said. “Symptoms include phlegm build up, chest pain and breathing difficulties with more acute cases presenting with fever, weight loss and fatigue.
“Silicosis is a very serious disease and can be identified by inflammation and scarring in the upper part of the lungs.
“Traditionally exposure occurs in workplaces and construction industries, however we worryingly still don’t know how many people have actually been exposed.
“We are now seeing exposure to dangerous amounts of Crystalline Silica from the use of power tools to cut, grind and drill into artificial stone for bathroom and kitchen bench tops.
“We need to emphasise that damage can be done to the lungs before symptoms are obvious.”
To register your exposure to Crystalline Silica, go to www.slatergordon.com.au/silica-exposure-registration-form.