Workers who cut and grind artificial stone are putting themselves at risk of lung disease, say a team of Aussie scientists.
They studied seven male patients aged 26-61 who worked in benchtop fabrication businesses. After approximately seven years of exposure to the dust, the patients developed silicosis - inflammation and scarring of the lungs caused by breathing in silica dust, which leads to major health issues.
The researchers say similar cases have been reported worldwide, and are calling for an urgent review of occupational health and safety measures in the industry.
"Artificial stone has a very high silica content, therefore workers who are involved in cutting or grinding it to produce benchtops are at risk of exposure to very high levels of silica dust," Dr Ryan Hoy, Respiratory and Sleep Disorders Physician told Gizmodo.
"Over time, inhaling this fine silica dust into the lungs can cause severe irreversible lung disease."
Dr Hoy warns that all possible measures should be used at workplaces to reduce the generation of dust when cutting and grinding is performed.
In the early stages of silicosis workers will have no symptoms, Dr Hoy says, so they should have a medical review every year, and a chest x-ray at least every five years to be screened for the disease.