Artificial stone benchtops have become increasingly popular over the last 20 years for new and renovated kitchens and bathrooms in Australia.
Artificial stone, sometimes called engineered quartz, is made in factories either in blocks or slabs. They are then cut and polished by fabricators with final trimming and assembly on site.
How Engineered Quartz Benchtops are Made?
These benchtops are typically manufactured by crushing quartz rock which is then mixed with desired additives such as glass (or diamonds if you are filthy rich) and hardened under high pressure and heat with a resin adhesive.
Engineered quartz benchtops are great products that look and feel just like real granite or stone. Both artificial and real quartz stone benchtops are solid and inert for normal usage.
So, what is the problem?
In our June newsletter we introduced the topic of dust hazards and explained the difference between respirable and inhalable dust. Fine quartz dust is respirable and reaches deep into the lungs and can cause serious disease such as silicosis.
Risk arises when the artificial or real stone benchtops are cut or polished which releases large quantities of fine quartz (silica) respirable dust into the air and breathing zone of tradies fitting the new benchtops.
Breathing Silica Dust is Dangerous
If inadequate dust suppression is provided and workers are not protected with appropriate respirators, then repeated or significant exposure to silica dust can give rise to respiratory or lung disease.
Who is at Risk?
People most at risk are middle-aged tradies who have been involved with numerous kitchen and bathroom renovations using man-made stone.
The reason for the rise in silicosis cases appears to be we are all so used to doing jobs around the home with no major risks or precautions that workers don’t realise the serious health risk posed by these relatively new type of benchtops.
A Paper Respirator is Not Enough
It is not enough to simply wear a cheap paper respirator when cutting quartz stone and engineered stone benchtops, effective ventilation and water to suppress the dust helps ensure the health of workers and other people in the area.
For a copy of our dust risk assessment checklist call Zara or Gary on 03 8544 4300 or email email@example.com
If you are interested in Respirator Fit testing call Stephen 03 8544 4300.