World First: Australia’s Ban on Engineered Stone Starts July 1!

Australia has set a global health precedent for a product described as the "new asbestos"

Sun 30 Jun 24


Engineered stone will be banned across Australia from tomorrow, July 1st, after federal, state, and territory ministers agreed to ban the importation, manufacturing, and use of the product for making kitchen and bathroom benchtops.

It comes after Wood Central last year revealed that a bombshell report by Safe Work Australia warned that engineered stone products must be banned immediately, stating that “the cost to industry, while real and relevant, cannot outweigh the significant costs to Australian workers.”

Leading up to the ban, Australia’s largest building and construction union, the CFMEU, declared that it would block engineered stone benchtops from being used on sites, with Bunnings and IKEA part of a growing number of retailers and merchants banning the sale of products in stores.

Australia has become the first country to ban engineered stone because of the deadly risk to tradies who cut the popular kitchen and bathroom product – footage courtesy of @abcnewsaustralia.

Marie Boland, the CEO of Safe Work Australia, said the prohibition will make Australian workplaces “safer and healthier”.

“The vast majority of silicosis cases identified in recent years are in engineered stone workers,” she said before saying, “Many of these cases are in younger workers who are experiencing faster disease progression and higher mortality.”

“The cost to industry, while real and relevant, cannot outweigh the significant costs to workers, their families and the broader Australian community that result from exposure to respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone.”

Last year, Queensland’s Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the state was proud to lead the campaign to ban the deadly material.

“This is a dangerous product that’s known to cause the potentially fatal disease silicosis, and it has no place in our workplaces,” she said in a statement. “All workers have a right to turn up to a safe and healthy workplace, and I’m proud to be part of a government that has helped deliver this key measure to protect workers.”

The ban comes after research linked the cutting of engineered stone to the deadly lung disease – Silicous.

In October, hundreds of protesters across Australia picketed hardware giant Bunnings over the health concerns.

Described by health officials as “new asbestos”, engineered stone is a substitute for timber and laminated benchtops. 

It contains high levels of crushed silica crystals – which, when cut, grounded or polished, has been linked to incurable disease.

In February 2022, the Federal Government announced “the first steps for its removal from the Australian marketplace.”

According to a 2021 report by the Australian government’s National Dust Disease Taskforce, nearly one in four workers exposed to silica dust from engineered stone before 2018 have been diagnosed with silicosis.

In 2023, modelling from Curtin University predicted that more than 10,000 Australians will develop lung cancer and up to 103,000 workers will be diagnosed with silicosis due to exposure to silica dust during their lifetimes.

Accelerated silicosis is an aggressive and incurable form of lung disease that traditionally affects construction workers, farmers, miners and engineers. It is caused by breathing in unsafe levels of silica dust, which can scar your lungs and cause them to stiffen.

What are the alternatives to engineered stone?

Speaking to ABC Radio Sydney Breakfast in February, Michael Ferry – kitchen manufacturer and designer – said timber, laminate, bamboo and polisher concrete are viable alternatives to engineered stone.

According to Archipro, timber and even bamboo “is a classic choice for kitchen benchtops, as it gives natural warmth and character,” but it must be coated before us and have oil reapplied.

Footage courtesy of @kitcheninsider.

By contrast, laminate has some significant advantages, and “among kitchen benchtop materials, laminate offers one of the widest ranges of colours and patterns.”

It is also quite resistant to staining and easy to keep clean but susceptible to scorching and scratching. 

“As long as the user is vigilant when cutting or using hot pots/pans, this shouldn’t be a major issue.”

Laminate benchtops are made by squeezing the layer of toughened plastic, an ornamental paper sheet and a block of engineered wood like moisture-tolerant particleboard or medium-density fibreboard.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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