The Australian Institute of Health & Safety (AIHS) welcomes the release of the Curtin University study into the Future Burden of Lung Cancer and Silicosis from Occupational Silica Exposure in Australia.
The report, prepared by Dr Renee Carey and Professor Lin Fritschi, and commissioned by the ACTU, provides new silica disease estimates that complement data in the Safe Work Australia (SWA) Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement.
The AIHS says that the Curtin report considers lung cancer as well as silicosis. A novel Future Excess Fraction approach is used, compared with the SWA method of costing benefit in terms of the Average Value of Life Saved and Illness Avoided.
The Curtin University study suggests the greatest future burden will be in the construction and mining industries, where it is estimated that 324,420 and 137,380 workers are exposed respectively. This compares with 4,610 exposed in the engineered stone industry, but where there may be a proportionately higher disease risk.
Both the Curtin University and SWA reports may underestimate the benefit of regulating silica exposure, since silica-related autoimmune disease (e.g. scleroderma), kidney disease and other non-respiratory effects are not considered. The reports highlight the limited quality of information on crystalline silica exposures to enable more precise risk estimates and targeted interventions.
The AIHS says that the case for further regulation of silica exposures in Australian workplaces is strong, and a nationally consistent regulatory approach, including exposure assessment, across industry sectors, is recommended.
About the AIHS: with a more than 70-year history, the Australian Institute of Health & Safety is Australia’s national association for the health and safety profession, with a vision for safe and healthy people in productive workplaces and communities.
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