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Slater and Gordon lawyers are calling on the producers of the Nine Network’s The Block program to highlight and promote the potential dangers of working with products containing silica.

The show – which is watched by thousands across Australia – provides techniques and ideas to DIYers on how to renovate and build properties, inspiring many to take the initiative in taking on big projects themselves.

However, senior Slater and Gordon Dust Disease Lawyer Claire Setches said it was important for the show to also highlight appropriate safety measures when dealing with substances that could pose a serious health risk, possibly leading to conditions such as Silicosis.

Silicosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of silica dust which leads to inflammation and then scarring of the lung tissue. Acute Silicosis is a very severe condition, which can be rapidly progressive, and lead to respiratory failure and death.

Ms Setches said unfortunately more and more tradies were being exposed to dangerous amounts of silica, which is inhaled when power tools cut, grind and drill engineered artificial stone for bathroom and kitchen bench tops.

She said it was the responsibility of the show’s producers to educate its contestants and the public on the dangers of working with these types of products and the importance of using appropriate wet cutting systems and wearing protective face masks.

Silica is commonly found in bricks, soil, sand and concrete in Australia, but over the past 16 years, silica dust has been found in much higher concentrations in engineered and artificial stone products used to make bench tops.

“It’s great that people are learning how to build and renovate but more needs to be done to educate the public about the dangers of inhaling fine silica dust and the resultant risk of developing serious health conditions such as Silicosis,” Ms Setches said.

“Silicosis is a very serious disease. It causes scarring of the lungs leading to progressive respiratory impairment.

“Traditionally exposure occurs in workplaces and construction industries after prolonged exposure to silica dust.”

Ms Setches said it was important to emphasise that silica dust is very fine. As a result, people may have been exposed to silica fibres without even knowing.

“Unfortunately, there are almost no available medical therapies – aside from a lung transplant – and, even more concerning, that there is still very little data about the number of people who have been potentially exposed to the dust,” Ms Setches said.

More than 100 people have put their details down on Slater and Gordon National Silicosis Register – the first in Australia. To register your exposure or symptoms go to the registration form page

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