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The World Conference on Lung Cancer is held from 9-12 September 2023 in Singapore.

The conference will be attended by lung cancer professionals from around the world and provides a platform to share the most up-to-date research, practices, and advancements in lung cancer.   

This is a timely reminder of the important role health practitioners can play in identifying work-related causes of lung cancer and obtaining the information needed from their patients to assist in identifying potential compensation entitlements. 

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a malignant tumour in the tissue of one or both lungs. A tumour may be found in the bronchi or in the spongy lung tissue. Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related death in Australia and significantly impacts a person’s quality of life.

A recent study has suggested that 10-30% of lung cancer is caused by hazardous occupational exposures (reference Hoy & Brims).

What are common occupational causes of lung cancer?

Asbestos dust

Asbestos is a natural mineral fibre that was widely used in building products and heat-resistant fabrics in Australia until about 1985. It was used in almost every house built in Australia after the Second World War and was commonly used to line bathrooms and kitchens, as well as for eaves or cladding.

Builders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, sheet metal workers, mechanics, dock workers, asbestos insulation workers and firefighters were often exposed to asbestos dust and fibres in the course of their work.

Silica dust

Silica dust is created when a material containing crystalline silica is cut, drilled or ground. The dust particles are small and difficult to see. Silica is found in common materials like natural stone, sand, concrete and mortar. These materials are used to make composite or engineered stone for benchtops, and can also be found in tiles, bricks and some plastics.

Exposure to silica dust occurs most often in workplaces, including:

  • Stonemasonry
  • Mining
  • Excavation
  • Constructions and demolition
  • Quarrying
  • Tunnelling
  • Abrasive blasting
  • Brick, concrete or stone cutting

Welding fumes

Welding fumes were reclassified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2017. Australia’s current workplace exposure standard for welding fumes is 5mg/m3.

The World Health Organisation recently reported that workers exposed to welding fumes have a 48% higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Fitters, welders, and boilermakers are commonly most at risk of welding fume exposure.

We have recently created the National Welding Fumes Exposure Register with the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union. Workers who have been exposed to welding fumes can record their information on the register. If they develop an illness or disease that is associated with welding fume exposure, this information can be used in support of a potential compensation claim. 

Can I access compensation for my lung cancer condition?

Questions we commonly get asked about eligibility for occupational lung cancer compensation include: 

  • I previously smoked. Can I still claim compensation for my lung cancer?
    If a person has had significant exposure to any dust, chemical or fumes that has contributed to the development of their lung cancer, then compensation can still be payable even if the person has a history of smoking.

  • My employer is no longer in business, can I still pursue a claim?
    If the employer held a valid workers’ compensation policy for the period of employment where the alleged exposure occurred, a claim for compensation can still be made. In some states and territories, a statutory body can act as an insurer in circumstances where an employer did not have a valid workers’ compensation policy. This will ensure that a worker can still access compensation.

  • I am retired. Do I still have an entitlement?
    If you are retired, you are unlikely to be entitled to lost wages. However, in most states and territories, you will still likely have entitlements to medical and treatment expenses. You may also have entitlements to pain and suffering damages and past and future care.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos or silica dust or been diagnosed with an asbestos or silica-related condition, please contact us on 1800 991 692.

Learn more about our work in workplace disease compensation

Our dedicated workplace disease lawyers have significant experience in helping clients get compensation for occupational diseases caused by asbestos, silicadust exposure and more. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

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