by GRACE JOHNSON
Retail giants have responded to Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union’s (CFMEU) calls to ban engineered stone, a harmful silica-based product that leads to silicosis, a lung disease estimated to have contributed to over 10,000 deaths globally.
Bunnings Warehouse announced today that it will no longer sell engineered stone from the end of the year.
Ikea soon followed suit, announcing that it will begin phasing out the product, following Safe Work Australia’s recommendation to ban the product in October.
In a statement, the Ikea Australia chief executive officer and chief sustainability officer, Mirja Viinanen, said “Ikea Australia will begin the process of phasing out engineered stone products from our local range, ahead of government action.”
Engineered stone, made from crushed quartz and resin, has become a popular and more affordable option to natural stone (like marble or granite) in bathrooms and kitchens. But when cut, drilled and polished, the dust particles of the product contain crystalline silica, which can cause irreversible damage to the workers who come into contact with it.
CFMEU activists and advocates protested outside Bunnings stores across the country. A few weeks ago, CFMEU organised a march which saw thousands attend.
CFMEU National Secretary Zach Smith said, “Bunnings should be congratulated for eventually doing the right thing and pulling these deadly bench tops from their shelves.”
The union has previously said that it would implement its own ban on members working with engineered stone if the federal government did not ban production, importation and use of the material by July 2024.
The pressure continues for federal, state and territory governments to ban the material.