Silicosis the new Asbestosis

Open sand mining and sand screening will increase the concentration of Crystalline Silica in the air we breathe, classified as a human lung carcinogen that can cause Silicosis. An Easterly will blow any contaminants over Rural and Estate residents, increasing our carcinogen exposure over the life of the mine and associated risk profile. The location of the sand mine is not appropriate, town zoning occurred well before mining approval.

When Silica sand is mined (extracted) and screened it is released in to the air as fine dust known as respirable crystalline silica or silica dust. Health risks that we’re learning today about Silicosis is following a similar path to Asbestosis, Silicosis is the new Asbestosis.

According to Hanson’s own Safety Datasheet:

Repeated exposure to the dust can result in increased nasal and respiratory secretions and coughing. Inflammation of lining tissue of the respiratory system may follow, carrying risk of causing serious and irreversible lung disease, including bronchitis, and silicosis (scarring of the lung) plus many more.

The Cancer Council of Australia state that Silica dust is harmful when inhaled into your lungs. As is it 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, you can be breathing it in without knowing. Furthermore, exposure to silica dust can lead to the development of lung cancer, silicosis, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is estimated that 230 people develop lung cancer every year because of past exposure to silica dust at work. Not all exposed workers will develop cancer, cancer risk increases with long term or repeated high-level exposure. The residents that surround the proposed sand mining operations are at an increased risk due to long term exposure of silica dust, when compared to their current exposure levels.

Today, all States and Territories in Australia have work Health and Safety laws that explain duty of care for employers and workers responsibilities. Hanson Safety Procedures require the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as part of their Duty of Care to material handlers of quarry products including those extracting sand (mining), this Duty of Care includes the use of breathing apparatus and hermetically sealed machinery cabins with dust and toxin filtering air condition systems. We therefore cannot comprehend how the stringent use of PPE and safety precautions is required for Hanson employees or contractors, yet the neighbouring properties as close as 20 metres away who are exposed to the exact same risk are not required to have any protective equipment.

According to EPA Guidelines the screening or sieving of sand, rocks, chemicals and minerals requires a buffer distance of 500 metres to separate industrial land use and sensitive land use to minimise health, safety and environmental impacts. The closest 20 metre buffer proposed at this site is 4% of the minimum recommendation.

It is also important to note surrounding rural residents are not on ‘town’ supplied water, all water is supplied from a tank with housing or shed roofs used for catchment. It is very possible settling toxic dust could contaminate primary water sources.

Hanson Datasheet – Highlight Risks (PDF, 106Kb)

Hanson Datasheet Risks - Highlighted

Dust suppression controls can only ever suppress at best, there is no guaranteed containment in an open environment, therefore unacceptable risk exists to residents included in the EPA buffer zone and outer estate residents depending on the weather conditions and wind direction.

Should Hanson consider providing breathing apparatus’ for neighbouring properties when walking outside? Should they also consider cleaning their roofs and water from contaminants too? The location of the proposed sand mine is simply not suitable for the operating environment and location.

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