Media Watch scrutinises The Block benchtops

Renovation series The Block last night featured in a story on Media Watch with questions around engineered stone benchtops, supplied by Spanish company, Cosentino.

Earlier this year 60 Minutes reported on “How our love of shiny kitchen and bathroom benchtops is driving a Silicosis epidemic.”

Exposure to silica dust, released in cutting, grinding and shaping reconstituted or engineered stone, can lead to silicosis, an incurable and insidious lung disease, as well as kidney disease and lung cancer.

The Block‘s Scott Cam recently told viewers the products had “minimal silica – like natural – that naturally occurs in beach sand or something like that – so it’s very safe.”

However the ACTU told ABC even low silica engineered stone represent unmanageable risks during fabrication and thus should be prohibited.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said in a statement, “We are disappointed to see the show promoting the use of Silestone, an engineered stone brand produced by Spanish company Cosentino, which had admitted in court overseas that it negligently concealed the dangers of its product, allegedly resulting in nearly 1900 workers contracting silicosis.”

He added, “TV programs such as The Block should be warning consumers of the product they are purchasing has come at the expense of workers lives, instead of what appears to be a cash for comment approach.”

In a statement to Media Watch a Nine spokesperson said, “Engineered stone was not used at all. All kitchens used natural stone. Some laundries used a product which WorkSafe does not consider to the engineered stone, due to its low silica content. In any event, no natural stone was cut on site. All benches were made off site using safe work methods (as shown in the program) and then installed on location.

“We otherwise refer you to Cosentino regarding their work practices. We have cited documents which demonstrate that these have been reviewed by WorkSafe.

“We work with WorkSafe at The Block to ensure safe work practices. Nine is aware of the issues relating to engineered stone products in the segment that the ACTU raised with us. The contestant specifically refers to the issues with silica dust. We note that this contestant is also a career safety officer.”

Cosentino also maintained the Silestone products fall outside the definition of engineered stone because they has less than 40% silica.

But Media Watch host Paul Barry said, “Cosentino and The Block were basing their responses on Victorian regulations that only define stone as engineered if it contains more than 40 per cent silica. And the benchtops in The Block have a maximum of 34 per cent.”

Safe Work Australia, the government body responsible for workers health and safety, also told Media Watch the benchtops are engineered stone on their definition which applies across the rest of Australia, adding “there is no credible evidence of a safe threshold level of exposure.”

Silestone has been used in laundries for Houses 2, 3 and 5.

You can read more here.

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