22nd June 2020

Are kitchen fitters at a higher risk of lung cancer?

View all Prevention

Quartz kitchen and bathroom tops should be banned, says public health experts after new research revealed the stone can lead to lung cancer.

The study of over 100 stone cutters in Spain found long-term exposure to silica dust can cause a condition called silicosis, which results in irreparable lung damage.

99% of the male patients from the study, which began in 2009, were found to already have silicosis, with 40 patients having also developed progressive massive pulmonary fibrosis (PMF). They continued to be tested each year and their illness got progressively worse.

Silicosis can increase your risk of getting other serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, including lung cancer.

NHS Website

The natural stone, quartz, is very popular, particularly in kitchens, due its to wide availability, durability, and ability to withstand high temperatures.

Dr Antonio Leon-Jimenez is the lead investigator and a lung specialist at Puerta del Mar University Hospital in Spain:

“While 6.6% of the artificial stone workers were initially diagnosed with massive pulmonary fibrosis, 37.7% had more advanced disease at the follow-up exam, even though they had left their jobs and were no longer exposed to the harmful dust. In a quarter of the patients, the rate of decline in lung capacity progressed very rapidly.”

The results have prompted public health experts to call for authorities to consider banning the artificial stone, stating these “colourful countertops are not worth the price paid by these workers.”

Reducing your risk

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is aware of the risk of stone dust and has regulations in place to control the risk of workers being exposed. On its website, it states:

Stone should be cut in a well-ventilated place and workers should wear proper respiratory protective equipment.

Health and Safety Executive

However, Dr Leon-Jimenez believes this is not enough:

“Avoiding the continued inhalation of silica is essential but is not enough. ‘The majority of patients are young people and the progression of the disease, in a significant number of them, foreshadows an uncertain future.” 

If you have been exposed to stone dust during your employment, it is vital you can recognise lung cancer symptoms, including a persistent cough, a cough which gets worse over time, breathlessness, unexplained tiredness, coughing up blood and repeat chest infections.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please speak to your GP as soon as possible, explaining all your symptoms and that you may have been exposed to stone dust.