Dust diseases in modern Australia: a discussion of the new TSANZ position statement on respiratory surveillance

Deborah H Yates, Jennifer L Perret, Margaret Davidson, Susan E Miles and AW Musk
Med J Aust 2021; 215 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51097
Published online: 31 May 2021

New measures are designed to improve health outcomes for workers in the coal mining, artificial stone and other dust‐generating industries

In Australia, there has recently been a worrying resurgence of dust‐related lung diseases (pneumoconioses) previously assumed to be obsolete. Pneumoconioses are chronic fibrotic lung diseases produced by inhaling mineral dust or dusts (pneumon = lung; konis = dust [Greek]). Conditions include coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) and silicosis.1,2,3,4 Many cases of these diseases have been described in Australia for the first time in over 40 years, including a new type of accelerated silicosis caused by cutting and polishing engineered (artificial) stone seen in kitchen and bathroom benchtop workers.5,6 The latter has occurred in men, often at the height of their working lives, producing much disability and distress and resulting in completely preventable deaths. Artificial stone silicosis differs from other types of silicosis in that it progresses more rapidly and is also associated with a higher rate of development of autoimmunity than classical silicosis.

  • 1 St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 St Vincent’s Clinical School, UNSW, Sydney, NSW
  • 3 Allergy and Lung Health Unit, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC
  • 4 Western Sydney University, Sydney, NSW
  • 5 Calvary Mater Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW
  • 6 University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW
  • 7 University of Western Australia, Perth, WA


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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