PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Queensland government this week announced more than A$3-million in research grants for occupational dust lung disease.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the grants were part of an election commitment to fund A$5-million of medical research into occupational dust lung diseases, particularly coal workers pneumoconiosis (black lung) and silicosis.
“The government is proud of our strong record to protect the health and safety of Queensland workers, but we always want to do more. These lung diseases are preventable and have limited treatment options, particularly where a worker has advanced disease.
“That’s why we committed at the election to fund research: to help prevent these diseases, to pick them up earlier in affected workers, and to find more and better treatments.
“There are three very worthy recipients with different research projects, ranging from screening methods to analysis of exposure scenarios.
“I look forward to the projects providing us with a deeper understanding of the impacts of exposure and how the disease progresses, so we can support more Queensland workers.”
The University of Queensland (UQ) will receive A$1.5-million to collaborate with the Chicago School of Public Health at the University of Illinois to research early detection, prevention, and progression of mineral dust-related lung diseases.
Professor Neville Plint, director of UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute, said the funding would make a huge difference.
“We are delighted and incredibly grateful for this funding opportunity. This international research partnership, supported by the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations, combines deep knowledge and experience spanning the domains of mining engineering, mineralogy, occupational epidemiology, pulmonary pathology and toxicology, and clinical pulmonary medicine.”
A further A$782 000 will go to i-Med Queensland for an investigation to compare the effectiveness of screening methods, while A$827 000 has also been awarded to UQ to collaborate with the University of New South Wales to identify factors critical to the development, severity and progression of coal workers pneumoconiosis and silicosis.
Grace said funding the research was just one of the ways the government was working to minimise exposure to occupational dust and supporting those workers who have been diagnosed with a disease.
“Our initiatives include Australia’s first Code of Practice for the engineered stone benchtop industry; developing one of Australia’s first Clinical Pathway Guidelines for doctors assessing and managing silicosis in engineered stone benchtop workers; establishing the Mine Dust Health Support Service and creating the Notifiable Dust Lung Disease Register.
“We are also close to finalising a Silica Code of Practice for the Construction Industry, which will establish minimum enforceable standards to ensure silica dust is managed safely and workers are protected in both the construction industry and in the manufacturing of construction materials.”