Occupational dusts

Learn about how certain dusts in the workplace affect our health and what we're doing to prevent and detect occupational dust disease.

Health impacts of occupational dusts

Breathing in occupational dusts can cause:

  • coughing
  • shortness of breath or abnormal breathing
  • chest pain
  • mucus in your airways.

Short and long-term exposure to certain dusts, fumes, vapours, gasses and microorganisms can cause respiratory diseases such as:

  • asbestosis
  • pneumoconiosis (black lung disease)
  • silicosis.

Silica dust

Over the past 15 years in Australia, there has been an increase in silicosis, a serious lung condition caused by inhaling very fine silica dust.

We set up the National Dust Disease Taskforce to develop a national approach to:

  • reduce incidences of silicosis and other dust diseases among workers
  • increase the quality of life for people affected and their families. 

In response to the Final Report of the National Dust Disease Taskforce the Australian Government, along with the states and territories, have committed to a range of activities to support prevention, early identification, control, and management of occupational dust diseases in Australia.

We have supported the development of guidance for doctors assessing workers exposed to silica dust and have funded research into silicosis through the Medical Research Future Fund.

Early detection and prevention

We are developing a National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry to help reduce and eliminate preventable occupational respiratory diseases through early detection, intervention and prevention activities.

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