Ad supporting deadly engineered stone dubbed a ‘disgrace’

The global manufacturer has been blasted over an ad warning that banning the product could harm tradies and scare households.

The global manufacturer has been blasted over an ad warning that banning the product could harm tradies and scare households. Photo: TND

An advertisement campaign fighting to prevent a blanket ban on silicosis-causing benchtops has been lambasted as misinformation.

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey claimed the advert – taken out by major engineered-stone company Caesarstone last week – was spinning lies equivalent to “the worst tactics” used before the prohibition of asbestos in the early 2000s.

In its newspaper ad, the global manufacturer warned banning the manufactured stone could harm at-risk tradies and scare households, encouraging Mookhey to call it a “disgrace”.

“Having seen that ad yesterday, I thought it was a disgrace,” Mookhey said, before comparing Caesarstone to the concrete manufacturer James Hardie, the manufacturing company most-commonly associated with asbestos.

“And an attempt at misinformation and misdirection worthy of James Hardie and the worst of their tactics as they fought to stop the regulation of asbestos.”

Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Zach Smith lashed out at the ads, telling The Sydney Morning Herald it was “the most blatantly evil corporate campaign I have ever seen”.

“No one needs Caesarstone. It is a product that kills people. And it kills them young,” he said.

Caesarstone Australia chief executive David Cullen denied the campaign – run on behalf of several manufacturers under the banner of the Australian Engineered Stone Advisory Group – was misleading.

“Despite the rhetoric from the unions, the reality is that a ban on only one product containing silica will not solve silicosis,” he said.

It comes the same day union workers are marched through Sydney to the NSW Parliament, with unions saying they will ban the use of engineered stone by the middle of next year if the government doesn’t act.

Trade unions and the CFMEU – with its “Stop this killer stone” campaign – have laid down ultimatums against the engineered stone, which is typically used in kitchen and bathroom benches.

It can contain up to 95 per cent crystalline silica and is responsible for a surge in the irreversible lung disease silicosis.

The CFMEU said more than 600,000 workers are exposed to it across sectors such as mining, building and construction, tunnelling and manufacturing.

“More than 600 workers in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have silicosis,” the union said.

“[And] 103,000 people will contract silicosis in their lifetime, and 10,000 will develop lung cancer unless engineered stone is banned now.”

silicosis ad

The ad appeared in the SMH last Wednesday.

Federal and state work safety and health ministers will meet on Friday to discuss a secret Safe Work Australia report that reportedly recommends an all-out ban on engineered stone, dubbed the new asbestos.

Twenty years ago, James Hardie its senior executives were hit by a raft of allegations over the company’s handling of asbestos liabilities and deceptive conduct. Eventually, the company signed an agreement with the NSW government to pay out $4.5 billion for asbestos victims.

Asbestos was banned nationwide in 2003.

Caesarstone is pushing for a ban only on engineered stone products with a crystalline silica content of more than 40 per cent.

Topics: Silicosis
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