In addition to the various diseases caused by asbestos and silica, other dusts can cause disease.  In most jurisdictions, pathological conditions of the lungs, pleura, peritoneum or sinus that are attributable to dusts are known as “dust diseases”  These diseases are often classified by reference to the dust that caused them.

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis  – Black Lung

Black lung, or Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis is caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. It primarily affects coal miners and others who work with coal and graphite products. It is quite similar to chronic silicosis.

Black lung is generally diagnosed by chest x-ray or CT scan in conjunction with an industrial history of exposure to coal or graphite dust.

The symptoms of black lung include shortness of breath, coughing and chronic bronchitis.  In some cases progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) can also develop.  PMF can be fatal.


Berylliosis is a chronic allergic-type lung response and chronic lung disease caused by exposure to beryllium and its compounds.  Beryllium is used in an alloy with other metals, particularly copper in nickel in technology, aero-space and other industries.

The exposure can cause the development of small inflammatory nodules, called granulomas.  Berylliosis can lead to a restrictive lung disease with a cough, shortness of breath. Other symptoms can include   chest pain, joint aches, weight loss, and fever.

Farmers lung

Farmer’s lung is a disease caused by an allergy to the mould in hay spores and other agricultural products.
Farmers lung can lead to a cough, fever, shortness of breath.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma is asthma (whether a new diagnosis or recurrence of previously dormant asthma) caused by exposure to an agent at the workplace. Exposure to an agent at work may also exacerbate an existing asthma condition. The agent may be a chemical, plant or animal organism, metal or wood dust, chemical or irritant such as a irritant gas, aerosol, vapor or smoke. Where a person has an exposure to a high concentration of an irritant they may develop an acute reaction including reactive airways dysfunction syndrome.

The occupations most at risk include handlers (e.g. acrylate), animal handlers and veterinarians (animal proteins), bakers and millers (cereal grains), carpet makers (gums), electronics workers (soldering resin), forest workers, carpenters and cabinetmakers (wood dust), hairdressers (e.g. persulfate), health care workers (latex and chemicals such as glutaraldehyde ), cleaners (e.g. chloramine-T), pharmaceutical workers (drugs, enzymes), seafood processors, shellac handlers (e.g. amines), solderers and refiners (metals), spray painters, insulation installers, plastics and foam industry workers (e.g. diisocyanates), textile workers (dyes) and users of plastics and epoxy resins.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, cough, sputum production and wheezing. Some patients may also develop upper airway symptoms such as itchy eyes, tearing, sneezing, nasal congestion and runny nose.

Other Dust Diseases

Exposure to dusts can cause a wide variety of diseases including  bagassosis, byssinosis and talcosis.  These diseases are all quite rare but share common features.


The process for claims for these type of diseases differs from state to state.

Depending on the state,  claims made be brought under workers compensation statutes and/or in Court proceedings against employers.

In NSW these diseases are dealt with by the Dust Diseases Tribunal, a specialist Court set up to deal with dust diseases.  People suffering from a disease caused by the inhalation of a dust while a worker in NSW  may also make application on the Dust Diseases Authority.  For more information about the DDA, follow this link.

In Victoria, the Dust Diseases List which was established by Practice Note SC CL 2 sets out special processes for any pathological condition of the lungs, pleura, peritoneum or sinus that is attributable to dust.

In South Australia, the Dust Diseases Act 2005 contains specific provisions that assist in claims for all diseases caused by the inhalation of dust.

We act on a full no win no fee basis in all dust disease claims.  We will not be paid unless you win your claim. More information about our fees is set out on our fee policy page.

How long do claims take?

A claim for a person suffering from a dust disease  usually takes between 4 and 12 months to finalise. Claims can run quicker if necessary.

How much are claims worth?

The value of the claim depends on a variety of factors.  The most significant factors are the level of disability, and the likely progression of the disease.  Other factors, including whether you are still in employment (or if the disease has stopped you working), along with the amount of care you need, and whether you provided care to any dependent will also be relevant.

Common Questions

Can I still claim if my employer went out of business?

Yes.  While most claims for dust disease claims are against employers, it is the workers compensation insurer not the employer that actually acts in the matter and pays compensation.  We are expert in working out who the relevant insurer was for periods of employment.

In addition it is sometimes possible to proceed against the occupier, or a principal contractor.

How do legal costs in a dust diseases claim work?

We act on a “no win/no fee” basis in all dust disease cases.

As soon as practicable after receiving your instructions, we will issue you a costs disclosure.  That document will set out the terms on which we will act.

We will undertake a through investigation, which may include obtaining medical or other reports prior to commencing proceedings and in order to provide you advice on the merits of your claim.  We will pay for these items.

We will only recover our fees if you are successful in your claim.

You will not be charged any money up front. We will pay all of the disbursements incurred in litigating your claim and we will recover the disbursements and our costs billed on a time basis at the successful completion of your claim. As part of your settlement or judgement the defendant will pay your party/party costs which cover 70 to 80% of your costs.

Please see our Fee Policy in mesothelioma and other dust disease matters page for more information.

Free Case Assessment

We offer a free initial case assessment.

We will obtain preliminary instructions from you and advise you whether we believe we are able to assist you in your matter.  If we believe we may be able to assist you we will discuss with you the the process, the terms on which we can act (including the likely costs) and the value of the claim.  The case assessment may be by phone, or in person. There is no cost associated with this case assessment, nor any obligation to instruct us in your matter.

You can contact email Tanya Segelov (, phone us on 020 8880 0500 (Sydney) or (03) 9021 7260 (Melbourne) or complete the form below. to arrange your free case assessment.