Silicosis and Stonemasons

After the death of stonemason Anthony White from silicosis, the disease has received much media attention, and finally this week, government action.  The Queensland Government has just announced a public register where:

“all instances of pneumoconiosis, silicosis and other occupational dust diseases will now be recorded on the Queensland Health Notifiable Dust Lung Disease Register.”

However, specialists working in the occupational and respiratory medicine field believe that more needs to be done to help those who have been diagnosed.


Silicosis is an incurable and aggressive lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust. Silica dust is released into the air when products that contain crystalline silica are cut, crushed or drilled.

Symptoms of silicosis appear when your lungs become scarred and stiffened. Unfortunately, this is often not until the disease is at an advanced stage. Symptoms include:

  • Coughing (usually severe) and chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue


Engineered stone has been finger-pointed as one of the main causative factors of silicosis in Australia. Popular products like stone bench-tops contain an extremely high concentration of silica (up to 90%), and it appears many stonemasons have not been wearing adequate protective equipment.

Dry cutting engineered stone is now banned in Queensland and there are calls for all other states and territories to enforce similar restrictions.