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Deadly silica dust contaminates museum collection

The National Museum of Australia has stored historical items in a site next to a concrete factory.

The National Museum of Australia has stored historical items in a site next to a concrete factory. Photo: AAP

The National Museum of Australia in Canberra is working to remove deadly silica dust that has contaminated part of the national historical collection.

The items have been kept in a storage facility next to a concrete factory over several years and the resulting contamination means it’s too dangerous for staff to enter.

“There’s a build up of silica dust in the in the facility, which requires removal before any collection can be treated,” the museum’s Ruth Wilson told a senate estimates hearing late on Thursday.

In April, the federal government announced a $78.3 million funding boost for the institution over the next four years.

That included $13.1m to lease an “urgently needed” new storage facility and move the items from their current location.

It is not known how long the museum items have been stored next to the factory.

Dust produced from silica is linked to the incurable lung disease silicosis as well as cancer and Safe Work Australia has recommended a national ban on products using silica.

“Workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica has led to an unacceptable increase in the number of cases of silicosis and other silica-related diseases,” Safe Work Australia chief executive Michelle Baxter said in March.

The National Museum has been contacted for further comment.

– AAP

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