Leading peak bodies for respiratory health, Lung Foundation Australia and the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, believe the number of cases of silicosis currently being brought to light is alarming and reinforces the need for a national occupational lung disease registry to support targeted prevention activities.
Lung Foundation Australia CEO, Mark Brooke, said occupational exposure contributes substantially to the burden of lung disease in Australia and is a growing issue that needs attention.
“Silica is found in many materials common on construction sites and certain activities – such as sawing, sanding and blasting – can expose construction workers to hazardous levels of silica dust which, when inhaled, can damage the lung and cause ‘silicosis’.
“Symptoms from silicosis may not be obvious and can initially include shortness of breath, chest pain, and/or a persistent cough. The condition can be severe enough to cause respiratory failure, which may eventually lead to death.
“While prevention is the ultimate goal, the role of general practitioners in identifying these symptoms to support early diagnosis and treatment is also critical.
“Occupational lung disease has been identified as a priority in our National Strategic Action Plan for Lung Conditions, commissioned by The Hon. Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for Health. The draft of this plan is currently available for public comment on our website,” he said.
Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand CEO, Tanya Buchanan, said greater awareness is needed about the risks, symptoms and prevention of occupational lung diseases, such as silicosis.
“Addressing occupational lung disease is a key priority for the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and we are committed to supporting general practitioners in identifying and diagnosing conditions such as silicosis through our education initiatives,” Ms Buchanan said.
“We encourage GPs who want to find out further information about the silicosis and occupational lung disease to join our webinar on “Accelerated Silicosis, kitchen benchtops and the emerging epidemic” with Dr Ryan Hoy & Dr Graeme Edwards via our website,” she said.
For more information about silica and silicosis, please view the Lung Foundation Australia factsheet.