Qld renovators warned of ‘invisible cancer risk’ lurking in homes

An invisible cancer risk could be lurking in bathrooms and kitchens – putting some DIY home renovators at risk, Cancer Council Queensland warns.

The non-profit organisation is urging home renovators to be aware of unseen cancer risks, with over 230 lung cancer cases in Australia apparently caused by exposure to silica dust each year.

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.


Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said when inhaled, silica dust can in some cases lead to lung cancer.

“Opting to do home renovations DIY style might save you money – but before you start it’s important to be aware of hazards that could impact your health,” Ms McMillan said.

“Silica is surprisingly common – and can be found in things like 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.

Ms McMillan said Cancer Council Qld estimates “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,” she said.

“Of around 11,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year in Australia, over 8,000 are due to smoking and 230 due to silica dust.”

Ms McMillan warned tradies, and their employers, to also be aware of the dangers, and act now to reduce the number of silica related lung cancer cases.

“It is estimated that around 600,000 Australian workers each year are exposed to silica dust at work, including miners, construction workers, farmers, engineers, bricklayers and road construction workers, as well as those working in demolition.

“Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe place to work. Likewise, those working with silica need to take responsibility for their future health, get informed and protect themselves.

“If you are regularly demolishing materials, sandcasting, sandblasting, bricklaying or cutting stone, tiles or bricks as a part of your job, you are at risk.

Ms McMillan said 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.”

Cancer Council has a fact sheet on silica and cancer risk, you can access it here: www.cancer.org.au/workcancer.