Tunnel workers in Brisbane at risk of silica-related diseases, medical expert says

A medical expert told a parliamentary inquiry into the black lung disease that Brisbane tunnel workers are at risk of serious health problems due to silica exposure.

Renowned black lung expert, Dr. Robert Cohen told the inquiry that people drilling through the Earth’s crust were at risk from silica exposure.

“Silica is actually a lung carcinogen. And it causes renal disease, it causes other auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and other things, so silica exposure is a huge problem,” said Dr. Cohen.

He encouraged workers who dig tunnels, including Brisbane’s Legacy Way, Airport Link and Clen 7 tunnels to undergo testing for silicosis.

“Silica is probably more dangerous than coal mine dust,” ABC quoted Dr. Cohen as saying.

“Quarriers, tunnellers, metal miners – anyone that’s disturbing the Earth’s crust and drilling through rock is at risk for quartz and silica exposure.

“There should be industrial hygiene monitoring of the exposure levels.”

Australian Workers Union Queensland secretary Ben Swan said they haven’t received any report of health issues related to silica exposure.

“We are unaware of any reports of issues that have emerged from any of those former tunnel projects from silicosis,” he said.

“To our understanding, there were testing regimes in place for workers – both pre-employment and at termination.”

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