Physicians welcome national taskforce to urgently address the accelerated silicosis epidemic

26 July 2019

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) welcomes today’s announcement by the Federal Government that the national Dust Diseases taskforce will be convened next week as promised by the Coalition during the election campaign.

The RACP, AFOEM and the Thoracic Society Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) have been strongly advocating for urgent, nationally-coordinated action across all Australian states and territories to address the silicosis epidemic and to take action on dust diseases more broadly.

The taskforce will include Dr Graeme Edwards, a specialist in occupational medicine and leading expert in accelerated silicosis and Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM).

Dr Edwards said “We strongly welcome today’s announcement that the taskforce will begin work next week, and acknowledge the leadership shown by Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Morrison Government’s in taking swift action to address this national health crisis.

“I look forward to working constructively with other experts in this field to develop a national approach for the prevention, early identification, control and management of silicosis.

“It’s imperative that all states and territories have a coordinated and effective approach to identifying the people who have been exposed; treating those who have been already been diagnosed with silicosis, and preventing the risk of anyone else being exposed to these deadly dust particles.”

“It’s important that we not only provide the best healthcare support to those who have tragically been diagnosed with silicosis – but also that we identify people who have been exposed to the dust but not yet diagnosed and might truly benefit from early intervention.” Dr Edwards said.

Accelerated silicosis is an entirely preventable occupational lung disease occurring in workers as a result of exposure to silica dust.

In the last nine months in Queensland alone, over 160 stonemasons have been diagnosed with the disease and in March this year, 36-year-old Gold Coast stone mason Anthony White lost his life to the condition. We are aware of an increasing number of cases being identified in Victoria and South Australia where case finding activity has commenced. We are also aware of a number of severe cases being diagnosed in NSW, which underscores the importance of a national taskforce.

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