Foundation-funded innovative research paves way for Australia’s ban on engineered stone

Published on
19 December 2023
Professor Graeme Zosky at UTAS Menzies Centre for Research

In a landmark decision Australia has recently announced a ban on engineered stone, effective from July 2024, in response to the growing health crisis of workers developing silicosis. This momentous step highlights the critical role of scientific research in shaping public policy and safeguarding worker health.

Supporters of the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation proudly contributed to this pivotal change, by providing funding for a ground-breaking study on the dangers of artificial stone benchtops. The study was led by Professor Zosky and revealed alarming facts about the engineered stone industry in Tasmania. Over 20 per cent of workers exposed to dust from cutting artificial stone benchtops showed signs of accelerated silicosis, a severe lung disease. The project aimed to identify the most hazardous materials in engineered stone and the cellular mechanisms contributing to the disease's severity. This approach was crucial in understanding the unique dangers posed by engineered stone dusts, different from typical silica dusts.

Photo credit: Chris Kidd - The Mercury Newspaper

Recently, Professor Zosky has been in the news again with his latest findings, adding another dimension to this complex issue. In collaboration with the University of Adelaide, his new research found that metals like cobalt and aluminium in engineered stone also pose significant health risks. These discoveries have reinvigorated calls for a comprehensive ban on engineered stone, considering not only the silica content but also the presence of other harmful components.

The unanimous decision by Commonwealth, state, and territory workplace ministers to implement a national ban on engineered stone is a testament to the power of dedicated research in driving policy changes. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, Professor Zosky's work significantly influenced public awareness and played a key role in a decision that will save countless lives.

As Australia prepares for this ban, it’s clear that the path to safer workplaces is paved with diligent research and informed policy decisions. The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation remains dedicated to supporting such vital research, ensuring that the health and safety of workers remains at the forefront of industry practices.