Engineered stone benchtops are killing Australian tradies, WA health experts warn, as mounting research shows working with it is as lethal as asbestos mining was for workers decades ago. Curtin University research predicts up to 10,000 Australians will develop lung cancer in their lifetime because of exposure to silica dust, the most potent source of which is artificial stone. People who work closely with the product, like stonemasons, are at heightened risk of developing the incurable lung condition. Curtin University researcher Dr Renee Carey is calling for the Albanese Government to ban the stone immediately. Dr Carey, who led a major study into the impacts of silica dust on workers, said a ban on the sale of engineered stone was the only way to protect the more than half a million Australian workers exposed to silica dust. “Our research has shown thousands of workers’ lives could be saved from deadly lung disease if a ban on engineered stone was implemented,” she said. “There is a clear momentum towards a ban on engineered stone, which we would ask the Federal Government to embrace as soon as possible. “A ban is supported by a weight of scientific evidence.” She said Safe Work Australia recently concluded there was no safe threshold of exposure to engineered stone. The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union has also vowed to ban its members from using the product. Bunnings and IKEA had also agreed to end sales of engineered stone because of the health risks, she added. “Until the Government takes action to protect workers’ lives, this move by big retailers is encouraging, and it would be great to see other businesses follow suit,” Dr Carey said. Professor Lin Fritschi, who co-authored the Curtin University research, urged people, including those building new homes and renovating existing ones, to stop choosing stone benchtops. This was because the popularity of engineered stone — mainly for kitchen benchtops — had been shown in research to accelerate the rise in related disease, she said. “What people choose for their benchtops is a combination of look, price and longevity,” Professor Fritschi said. “Engineered stone benchtops are no danger while they are in place. However, if they are removing engineered stone during renovations it is really important that full protection is used, similar to removing asbestos.” Professor Fritschi said there were safer alternatives, such as timber and marble, available to homeowners. Alternatives to engineered stone include: What is silicosis? It’s a lung disease mainly caused by inhaling silica, a mineral commonly found in certain types of rock or soil. Silica dust is created by cutting, drilling, grinding, or polishing certain types of stone, rock, sand, and clay. Over time, inhaling the dust causes inflammation, scarring of the lung tissue, and stiffening of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Engineered stone is ground stone combined with resin to make a slab that resembles natural stone, such as marble or granite. Engineered stone can contain up to 95 per cent silica. Silica dust is being likened to asbestos and is causing concern among Australians.