Pressure mounting to ban engineered stone


The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has added its voice to the calls for a ban on engineered stone to address growing concerns around cases of silicosis

In New Zealand, between 750 and 900 people die from work-related diseases each year. These are in addition to the 5000-6000 hospital admissions each year due to work-related ill-health.

Over the past few years, there has been increasing concern about the use of silica-containing artificial stone – which is used to make bench tops for kitchens and bathrooms.

When silica dust is inhaled, it can cause permanent damage to the lungs and silicosis (a respiratory illness) can develop.

Silicosis causes scarring of the lung tissue which makes it hard to breathe. It can severely reduce quality of life, and – in extreme cases – it can be fatal.

There is no cure for silicosis.

There are multiple alternatives and, as trusted and independent leaders in the respiratory health sector, the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ says it does not want to see workers’ lung health deemed of lower importance than consumers’ aesthetic preferences.

It can take up to 10 years after exposure for symptoms of silicosis to appear, meaning that people who work with silica-containing substances usually don’t realise that damage is being done to their lungs while they are working with it.

Banning engineered stone will not eliminate silicosis but it will protect those involved in very high-risk work from further exposure, the respiratory health organisation says.

“In December 2023, the Australian Government announced a ban on the material. We are calling for New Zealand to ban engineered stone to protect the respiratory health for workers.”