About

Australia bans engineered stone in world-first

Share
Australia has become the first country to ban engineered stone over concerns about the lung disease silicosis.
Engineered stone ban

Engineered stone will be banned across Australia next year after an agreement by states and territories.

The stone contains crystalline silica, which in the form of dust can cause irreversible and deadly lung damage for construction workers who inhale it.

The national ban follows a recommendation by workplace safety authority Safe Work Australia.

What is silica?

Engineered stone is a popular alternative to natural stones (like marble or granite), and is often used in the construction of bathrooms and kitchens.

When cut, drilled or polished, the dust particles it generates can contain crystalline silica, which is dangerous to inhale. The dust can lead to silicosis — a lung disease estimated to have contributed to 10,400 deaths globally.

Silica products don’t pose a health risk once installed.

Warnings

A 2022 study from Curtin University estimated more than 580,000 Australian workers had been exposed to silica dust.

The ban follows several warnings from unions and public health experts about the risks associated with installing engineered stone.

Safe Work Australia called for a national ban on engineered stone in October. Bunnings Warehouse and IKEA have since announced they will stop selling engineered stone.

Ban

A 2022 study from Curtin University estimated more than 580,000 Australian workers had been exposed to silica dust.

The ban follows several warnings from unions and public health experts about the risks associated with installing engineered stone.

Safe Work Australia called for a national ban on the product in October. Bunnings Warehouse and IKEA have since announced they will stop selling engineered stone.

Opposition

The Australian Engineered Stone Advisory Group (AESAG) – an organisation made up of engineered stone suppliers – is firmly against the ban.

In a petition opposing the SafeWork recommendation, AESAG has argued that banning the product “won’t solve silicosis”.

Instead, the group said it wants to improve industry safety and introduce an exemption on engineered stones that contain less than 40% silica.

What next?

Builders who have contracts with engineered stone providers will have a grace period to see out any agreements entered into before the ban was announced.

Ministers will meet again in March to discuss how to enforce the changes. The Federal Government has flagged it will also consider banning imports of engineered stone.

Become smarter in three minutes

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed, for free.

Be the smart friend in your group chat

Join thousands of young Aussies and get our 5 min daily newsletter on what matters in your world.

It’s easy. It’s trustworthy. It’s free.