Protect yourself from an invisible cancer risk
HOME renovators and tradies are unknowingly putting themselves at risk of lung cancer by failing to protect against silica dust on the job site, the Cancer Council says.
New estimates from the cancer charity suggest more than 230 cases of lung cancer each year are caused by exposure to silica dust, prompting warnings for tradespeople and DIY home renovators to protect themselves from the invisible cancer risk.
Cancer Council Australia occupation and environmental cancer risk committee chairman Terry Slevin said tradespeople who had daily exposure to the super fine dust were the most at risk, but home renovators should also beware.
“We estimate, based on a study published in 2011, that about 600,000 Australian workers are exposed to silica dust and there are methods of mitigating that exposure,” he said.
“There is people in the mining game, the construction game, the renovation game, road building and construction, sandblasting, there is a large number of jobs where people are likely to be exposed to silica.”
Silica is found in stone, rock, sand, gravel, clay, bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastics. The dust, which Mr Slevin said was 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, was released when these materials were cut.
Mr Slevin said survival outcomes for lung cancer tended to be poor and warned tradespeople to protect themselves using personal respiratory devices, dust prevention measures and proper ventilation. Eve Renovations owner Laura Madden has worked in the building industry for the past 15 years and said the dangers of silica was part of her early training. Ms Madden said she tried to avoid mechanical cutting of materials containing silica where possible.
“That reduces a lot of that dust, but if we do ever have to use mechanical cutting, grinders or things like that, at all times we have to wear a dust mask and to do it in a well-ventilated area and make sure we’re wearing the correct PPE (personal protective equipment).”