Engineered stone ban ’too little, too late’

Fawzy Tawadros has silicosis as result of working with engineered stone. (Damjan Janevski) 417262_01

By Matthew Younan

A state government ban on the manufacturing, supply and installation of engineered stone benchtops is “too little, too late“, according to the family of a Sydenham man battling silicosis.

The government introduced the ban on Monday, July 1, to prevent workers from being exposed to deadly silicosis.

The family of Fawzy Tawadros has been calling on the government to act for years.

Beshoy Tawadros said his dad is battling silicosis, an incurable disease meaning he must fight for every single breath he takes.

He has also been diagnosed with a much rarer condition, scleroderma or systemic sclerosis which is scarring fibrosis throughout the whole body, not just the lungs.

Both conditions are a result of working with engineered stone.

Beshoy said it was tough seeing his dad suffering.

“Dad’s had his heart impacted, his lungs, his bowel, his colon, his oesophagus, his skin, his eyes and mouth, so it’s a very far reaching and devastating disease. And there’s no cure for it,“ he said.

“He has pulmonary hypertension and scarring in his lungs both caused from silicosis and scleroderma, so he has a double whammy in that aspect.”

“Dad’s digestive system doesn’t work from his oesophagus to his bowels.

“He is on constant medications to try and help him, he’s lost his teeth and had several dental treatments.

“He is now on oxygen as well due to the damage on his lungs due to exertion. He’s had five heart procedures and a pacemaker installed.

“What dad is going through is very life changing. One day he was fine and then the next day, he was hospitalised for months.

“The only thing that hasn’t been impacted is his kidneys, liver and brain – essentially everything else is effected. His whole body is effected.”

Fawzy said he was suffering for years before doctors diagnosed him.

“From the early 2000s, I suffered symptoms. Sometimes I couldn’t eat because my heartburn was too bad. My teeth all came loose and one by one, I lost them all,“ he said.

“I was feeling constantly tired, fatigued very quickly, had a runny nose badly. My hands and legs felt cold. My fingers and hands were really painful.”

In 2016, Fawzy was diagnosed with scleroderma after having shortness of breath and heart issues.

In 2019, the then 59-year-old collapsed while out with his family. Fawzy’s family rushed him to hospital.

After being released from Footscray Hospital the next morning, Beshoy took his father to The Alfred where he stayed for more than five weeks while the scleroderma was investigated.

The 64-year-old said he continues to suffer.

“I’ve done five operations on my fingers in the past 12 months, they remove excessive calcium – they had to cut really deep to remove it,“ he said.

The stonemason’s lungs have also been destroyed by tiny toxic dust particles

“It’s a terrible disease,“ Fawzy said.

“Specialists told me, “I’m looking good on the outside but inside I am cooked.”

“I couldn’t swallow food properly. I only have one meal a day to reduce the pain because every time I eat, it is very painful.

“I take 38-42 tablets every single day.”

He said the government’s decision will help younger tradies.

“Unfortunately, it’s too late for me.“

While welcoming the decision to ban the manufacturing, supply and installation of engineered stone, Beshoy said the government should have acted sooner.

“It’s about time they made this decision,“ he said.

“We had the asbestos epidemic, and it took them a long time to ban that. You would think we would learn from the past. But it also took a long time to ban the manufacturing, installation and fabrication of engineered stone.”