Hundreds of thousands of Australians exposed to cancer risk in their workplace

Are you one of the 600,000 Australians exposed to silica dust at work?

As we mark National Safe Work Month, Cancer Council Queensland would like to call for increased awareness of cancer-causing agents in the workplace, including an unseen cancer risk – silica dust.

Silica dust is a fine dust that can be found in some stone, rock, sand, gravel and clay – as well as bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic materials.

When these materials are worked on or cut, silica is released as a fine dust that’s 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. It’s so small you can’t see it – but if you breathe it in, in some cases it can lead to lung cancer.

We estimate that silica dust is causing over 230 lung cancer cases each year across the country. These are cancer cases that could have easily been prevented through dust prevention or control, adequate ventilation or personal respiratory protection.

Miners, construction workers, engineers and agriculture workers are just some of the industries where workers could be exposed to silica dust at work.

The theme for this year’s National Safe Work Month is, ‘A moment is all it takes’.

This is important because a moment’s forethought can prevent harm.

It’s critical that both employers and employees are aware of all cancer-causing hazards and behaviours in the workplace, as putting in place control measures can help reduce cancer risk.

When it comes to silica, proper protection is a lot more than just wearing a dust mask. It includes on-site ventilation, using specialised tools with appropriate blades and dust suppression features and a range of other important safeguards.

If you or someone you employ are regularly demolishing materials, sandcasting, sandblasting, bricklaying or cutting stone, tiles or bricks, you need to get informed about silica dust now.

If Queenslanders are concerned about silica or other possible cancer-causing agents in their workplace, we invite them to contact Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 or sign up to our free cancer prevention program QUEST via

Ms Chris McMillan
CEO, Cancer Council Queensland

For interviews with Cancer Council Queensland representatives, please contact:
Lisa Maynard,
Manager, Public Relations and Social Media
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5171
Mobile: 0488 015 702