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Dust disease: Symptoms, causes and legal options

Receiving a dust disease diagnosis is extremely stressful — especially if you’re worried about finances.

Unfortunately, dust disease cases in many parts of Australia continue to rise, according to the National Dust Disease Taskforce. If you or someone you love has contracted dust disease due to poor workplace exposure standards, it’s important to know that you could be entitled to compensation.

What is dust disease?

Dust disease can be used to describe multiple long-term illnesses, each caused by inhaling microscopic dust particles. The accumulation of these particles can cause scar lung tissue, which results in the formation of nodules that may restrict breathing.

Some common dust diseases include:


A form of cancer that impacts lung tissue. While family history can be a factor, mesothelioma is most commonly caused by asbestos exposure. Sadly, Australia has the second-highest mesothelioma death rate in the world, according to


Another disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos. While asbestos was banned outright in 2003, it’s still common in many homes built before the 1980s.


This lung illness is caused by particles of silica dust — a commonly found substance in artificial stone. If left untreated, Silicosis can eventually lead to lung cancer.

Hard metal pneumoconiosis

This rare illness is caused by dust from materials like cobalt, tungsten and tungsten carbide.


Notably, dangerous dust particles are frequently created by cutting, grinding and polishing stone. As a result, dust diseases are especially common amongst workers in fields like construction, mining, excavation and trucking. While safety regulations have been put in place over the years, older workers and those not wearing sufficient protective gear may be at an elevated risk for infection.

What are the common symptoms of dust disease?

Dust disease symptoms often take many years, in some cases decades, to appear. As a result, it’s important for workers to be on alert, even if they’re no longer being exposed to dust. While exact symptoms vary from illness to illness, early symptoms typically include shortness of breath and a harsh, dry cough. Chest pain and mucus in the respiratory airways can also arise.

Over time, however, milder symptoms may turn into labored or difficult breathing, sleep troubles, weight loss, and loss of appetite. Ultimately, victims of these diseases may require the assistance of a respirator to breathe and see their lifespan shortened. At the very least, dust diseases can seriously impact your quality of life.

How can I protect myself from dust disease?

While there are many steps you can take as an individual to ward off dust disease, such as wearing proper facial protection, much of that responsibility should fall to your employer. Safe Work Australia requires worksites to undertake independent assessments of respirable dust levels and maintain compliant workplace exposure standards. Workplaces should also provide adequate protective gear to reduce the risk of dust inhalation.

What are my legal options if I contract workplace-related dust disease?

If you’ve contracted dust disease due to poor workplace exposure standards you can file a dust disease compensation claim as a part of a workers compensation and workplace negligence case. In both situations, you’ll typically need to be able to prove that your exposure occurred at your workplace. That begins with a proper diagnosis.

If you think you’ve contracted dust disease, it’s imperative you seek out a medical assessment from a licensed professional as soon as possible. From there, a legal team can review your case and help you to gather the evidence necessary to prove a connection.

The damages for a successful compensation claim will most likely be paid by your employer (if you were exposed because of unsafe conditions at work) or the manufacturer of the product (such as an asbestos material) from which you became ill. Some companies, such as James Hardie Industries — which operated asbestos mines and plants in News South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia — have compensation funds in place for workers and their loved ones.

Seeking assistance to receive compensation? Contact the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners. We have a dedicated client care service team to ensure that you are kept up to date at all stages and ensure you receive the triple “C” service: compassion, commitment and competence from all our staff.

For free over-the-phone advice or to take advantage of our free face-to-face consultation call our expert legal team today on 1800 004 878.


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Gerard Malouf & Partners have provided friendly, experienced legal advice to communities across Australia for over 35 years. Our Personal Injury Lawyers have taken on ten’s of thousands of cases and we are proud to have won billions of dollars for our clients.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.

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