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Queensland health minister said that silicosis could become an 'epidemic'

Photo: Silicosis could become an 'epidemic'
The death of a Queensland tradie from silicosis with more cases emerging has sparked concerns the disease could become the next asbestosis.

The silicosis death of a Queensland stonecutter has sparked fears of an epidemic of deaths in the industry as more cases emerge.

Gold Coast stonecutter Anthony White, who died last weekend, had become the face of the silicosis fight after being diagnosed with the disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust.

He is believed to be the first tradesman to die of the disease in Australia, and more cases are emerging.

Mr White had worked alongside his brother, Shane Parata, who was diagnosed with silicosis days before his brother died.
Queensland health minister Steven Miles told reporters on Thursday there are some concerns it could be the start of an epidemic of work related deaths in the stone cutting industry.

"This really does require national leadership to avoid what could be another asbestos-like wave of workplace deaths, and frankly no one deserves to die for going to work," Mr Miles said.

"The department of workplace health and safety have been leading a state wide audit to try and get a sense of it.

"This (issue) is emerging and this could well be the start of a major epidemic but we don't really know."

Doctors have warned the unfolding crisis could be large, and there have been repeated calls for a national approach to the issue.

Federal opposition spokeswoman for health, Catherine King, said on Thursday a national strategy was needed.

"This is shocking, it's shocking that here in 2019 we are seeing the re-emergence of silicosis," Ms King said.

"These are highly avoidable illnesses and entirely avoidable deaths."

A spokesman for federal Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said on Wednesday it was important that all governments work together to drive change in the industry.

Safe Work Australia has prioritised work to address the risks posed by dust exposure in the workplace, including in the engineered stone industry.

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