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Engineered stone: a health risk?

Australia has as first country in the world banned the use of engineered stone because of rising cases of silicosis among workers who handle the material. How dangerous is engineered stone?

Engineered stone is a composite material, made of crushed stone that is bound together with polymer resin to create a solid surface. It is considered a more affordable and durable alternative to natural stone for kitchen counters and bathroom vanities.

The ban is the result of a years-long campaign by doctors, trade unions and workers. When the material is cut or processed, the dust can cause silicosis. This deadly lung disease causes shortness of breath, cough, fever, and a bluish skin. This is not limited to engineered stone, as the dust comes from the crushed stone in the composite. Any silica-containing stone causes this problem. However, the risk from engineered stone was found to be higher than that of natural stone due to the composite material’s physical and chemical composition.

Silica dust is considered to be nearly as dangerous as asbestos. However, critics of the Australian ban, which goes into effect on 1 July 2024, say the ban does not address the underlying issues of rising silicosis rates, namely poor compliance with and enforcement of safety standards. With the right precautions, the risk of inhaling silica dust can be mitigated.

Photo: Wtshymanski at English Wikipedia