The Morrison Government has pledged a $5 million investment in response to the increase in cases of accelerated silicosis ahead of next month’s federal election.
The investment would be used to establish a dedicated taskforce and national dust diseases register, and to commission research into understanding, preventing and treating occupational lung diseases.
Australia is in the grips of a silicosis epidemic, potentially representing the biggest lung disease crisis since asbestosis.
Over 100 stonemasons have been diagnosed with the lung disease, with one person dying because of the condition last month, according to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) and other health bodies.
“While 100 stonemasons have already been diagnosed in Queensland, there is likely to be several hundred, and possibly more than a thousand, affected workers across Australia. Most remain undiagnosed,” occupational physician and RACP fellow Graeme Edwards said.
“If there is a coordinated national response we have a chance of making a real difference for these workers.”
The Liberal Party vows that members of the taskforce will include the medical community, industry, researchers and government, and be chaired by a leading medical expert.
The taskforce will commence in July 2019 and provide a final report by December 31 2020.
Silicosis is a preventable lung disease experienced by workers due to exposure to silica dust. A significant number of workers have also been diagnosed with a rapidly progressive form of this disease, progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), according to the RACP.
“While some jurisdictions are putting measures in place, what we really require is national leadership on the issue and a coordinated collaborative response to avoid unnecessary duplication and inconsistencies between jurisdictions,” TSANZ spokesperson Ryan Hoy concluded.