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What is a Dust Disease?

Dust disease refers to the number of chronic lung diseases that are caused by inhaling certain dust particles. Not all dust is harmful, but it’s important to know what kinds of dust can have an impact on your health.

Harmful dust particles include:

  • Silica
  • Hard metals, e.g. tungsten, cobalt, aluminium, & beryllium
  • Bagasse – the dry pulp left over after processing sugar cane
  • Cotton
  • Mouldy hay
  • Straw - Grain
  • Asbestos
  • Cutting, sanding, drilling or grinding dust

It is important to know that even if you have had contact with these types of dust, the chance of developing dust disease is low. Risk increases with unprotected exposure. If you use the appropriate masks and suppression methods, you are at a low risk of developing the disease.


If you are concerned about your health, dust disease is detected through respiratory medical tests. Symptoms include:

  • Coughing;
  • Shortness of breath or abnormal breathing;
  • Chest pain; and
  • Mucus in your airways.

Dust diseases will not appear until years after exposure. However, if you do contract a disease, there are compensation options depending on whether you caught the disease at work or near a site with poor practices.

There are legal options for dust disease suffers to access compensation. Those affected during their work can claim through Workers Compensation paths, while members of the public can use Public Liability laws to claim compensation to help them with the medical care they need.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 25, 2016.

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