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The Dark Side of Engineered Stone: Why It’s Being Banned and What You Can Use Instead



Engineered stone is a popular construction material that is used for its durability and low maintenance. However, in a world first, the Australian government has decided to ban engineered stone beginning next year. Most states and territories will ban the material on 1 July 2024, with the commonwealth flagging an import prohibition due to health risks associated with its production and installation. Fortunately, there are several safe and sustainable alternatives to engineered stone that can be used in construction projects. In this article, we will define engineered stone, discuss its benefits and health risks, and explore the alternatives that builders and homeowners can choose from.


What is Engineered Stone?

Engineered stone, also known as quartz or agglomerate stone, is a composite material made by mixing crushed stone with a resin binder. This manufactured product is made in a factory and can be customised to suit the specifications of any project.

Engineered stone was long been seen as an attractive option for many builders and homeowners due to its durability and resistance to scratches, stains, and heat. But benefits aside, the threat of developing life-threatening silicosis from working with it became evident, specifically for the stonemasons, installers and other workers exposed to the dust.


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Why is Engineered Stone Being Banned in Australia?

For decades, engineered stone benchtops were a preferred style in Australia. However, with rising cases of silicosis, proven to be caused by the inhalation of silica dust, it’s being removed from the market.

The dust, containing up to 95% crystalline silica dust, is created when the engineered stone is cut, drilled into, or ground. So, workers and home DIYers exposed to silica dust during installation and preparation are exposed to it, with profound effects.

Among the most troubling, silica dust has been shown to cause long-term damage, including lung cancer and silicosis, or lung scarring.


When does the engineered stone ban begin?

In October 2023, Safe Work Australia published the Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Prohibition on the Use of Engineered Stone (Decision RIS). The statement recommended a ban on the use of all engineered stone, regardless of its crystalline silica content, with the protection of the health and safety of workers as its primary aim.

At that time, with prohibition looking likely, a number of retailers were already acting on the advice. Popular national retail chain Bunnings announced it would stop the sale of the harmful material by the end of 2023. Likewise, Ikea will join the hardware stores, banning the sale of any products featuring engineered stone by December 31, 2023.

Then, in December 2023, the Australian government made a world-first decision to ban engineered stone completely. Commonwealth, state, and territory workplace ministers unanimously agreed to implement a national ban on the product and agreed the ban will start on July 1, 2024 in most states and territories. Now what remains to be seen is if other countries will follow?


What should homeowners and builders do now?

If your existing benchtops or tiles are made from engineered stone, you don’t need to worry if you plan on leaving it where it is. However, those planning to remove engineered stone products from their home should know that new rules apply.

According to the Housing Industry Association, some state governments now require anyone carrying out work on the removal or demolition of engineered stone to be licensed.



Alternatives to Engineered Stone

The good news is, there's a high quality and visually stunning alternative readily available: natural stone. And because natural stone features no silica, there's no need to worry about your health and safety. And if you're looking for a new benchtop for your kitchen or laundry you can feel good about, these are some excellent alternatives to engineered stone.


Natural Stone

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There are many excellent natural stone alternatives, including granite, travertine, onyx, and marble, to use for kitchen benchtops. Sourced straight from the earth, it's long-lasting and naturally beautiful.



Terrazzo Slabs

terrazzo

This stunning composite features chips of marble, granite, quartz and glass in a cement base. Terrazzo is stylish, durable, and sustainable, with a distinctive look that will set your kitchen apart.



Porcelain Slabs

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etna grey porcelain

Porcelain is created with natural materials like clay and other minerals, then fired at a high temperature. It's low-porous for easy maintenance, durable, and look just as stunning as natural stone.



Natural Stone: The safe alternative


Ready to give your home an upgrade using natural stone? Attila can help. As natural stone experts, we’ve held our lifelong pledge never to work with engineered stone products. Witnessing first-hand the hazards of the engineered stone manufacturing plants many years ago, the health risks were not something we felt comfortable with.

Our commitment to providing customers with high-quality and safe materials for their homes has always been paramount. And our conveniently located showrooms have the most extensive collection of natural stone in Melbourne, so we invite you to come and look around.

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Attila: The natural stone specialists


Choosing a safe and quality alternative to engineered stone is simple with Attila. We have a stunning range of natural stone and porcelain just waiting to be discovered. You can check out eight natural stone options that are stunning alternatives to engineered stone kitchen benchtops. Reach out to our friendly team today, or book a consultation at one of our showrooms and see the wonder of natural stone for yourself.