Queensland and NSW Laboratory have launched a new dust monitoring division dedicated to the monitoring and assessment of occupational and environmental dusts. Queensland and NSW Laboratory conduct a significant amount of monitoring for respirable Silica/Quartz and is accredited for many forms of dust analysis.
In Queensland, the Department of Mines and Energy have combined with the University of Sydney in a joint project to research the effects of silica on workers. Silicosis (thickening and stiffening of the lungs with consequent disabling ill-health) has been accepted by authorities for many decades as being caused by chronic silica exposure to fine silica dust.
When exposure to silica dust exceeds the National Standards and particularly in persons who show signs of silicosis-damaged lungs, there is increased risk of developing other conditions including Tuberculosis (TB), Cor pulmonale, and auto-immune disorders such as scleroderma and kidney disease.
The risk of Silicosis (pneumoconiosis due to silica) remains the basis for the National Standard. Pneumoconiosis is "the accumulation of dust in the lungs and the tissue reaction to its presence".
Dust levels including specific standards for crystalline silica are set by legislation in all Australian workplaces in the form of the National Exposure Standards (NES). The ASCC/NOHSC-National Occupational Exposure Standard (NES) for respirable crystalline silica is 0.1mg/m3 (measured as a time-weighted average over a shift, according to 2004 standards).
There is also an explicit requirement in the legislation to keep exposure "as low as workable" which has the legal meaning of "as low as is reasonably practicable" (ALARP) in the States. Queensland and NSW Laboratories now have the ability to deploy specialist teams to survey and monitor respirable crystalline silica Australia wide.