The makers of engineered stone benchtops are mounting a last-ditch campaign to head off a ban on the silica-based product that is a feature of countless kitchens. The chief executive of Caesarstone Australia said tougher regulation of the manufactured stone material rather than an outright ban was a better solution. "The product can be handled safely," David Cullen said. "There are many products which have dangerous elements - like paints or poisons - do you ban these products?" he asked. The construction union rejected that claim. "This is really about blood money," Zach Smith, national and ACT secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said. "There is no safe level of usage of engineered stone. What we are seeing is a blatant push to continue to use this product. It's profits over workers' lives." Engineered stone contains silica which causes the terrible lung disease silicosis if its fine particles are breathed. The danger is to workers who cut the material. A recent study showed that many sufferers came from Asia and so may be in unregulated corners of the economy. "Dry-cutting" of the material (so there's a lot of dust) is already banned. But a full-scale ban on the material would also hit companies with high safety standards, the companies argue. Queanbeyan stonemason Adam Olley said that the answer was to work safely with the material. At the workshop that he oversees, mechanical saws and grinders have water flowing along blades so the dust doesn't get into the air. There were air-quality monitors. "We wear positive air-pressure masks," the foreman at AAA Absolute Stone said. These masks operate with a pump so dust-free air reaches the nose and mouth. "If you are using the correct procedures, you minimise exposure," he said. The federal government is expected to announce its decision on a ban in November. In February, health and safety ministers of all states and territories asked Safe Work Australia to prepare a plan to ban the products. But the industry is pushing back. READ MORE: The raw material itself is not made in Australia but companies such as Caesarstone import it and sell to builders and kitchen companies who are then literally at the sharp end, cutting it for use. It is much cheaper than marble, which it resembles, and it is estimated to make up more than half of kitchen benchtops. The chief executive of Caesarstone Australia said "a wholesale ban is unnecessary, excessive and, most importantly, will not solve the devastating issue of silicosis". His argument is that if you ban this particular product, unregulated substitutes may have even more silica in them. He said the silica content had been reduced dramatically. It used to be 90 per cent but was now less than 40 per cent. He added in a letter to Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke that a ban would "cause enormous disruption in the housing construction industry and create anxiety for the millions of Australians with engineered stone benchtops". People selling the engineered benchtops agree. "A lot has been done by the fabricators of this product to limit the silica content over the last 12 months," Adam Batley, owner of the Kitchen Company in Fyshwick said. He called the reduction in the amount of silica in the product amazing. But he remains worried by the prospect of a ban on the product he sells. "I reckon up to 95 per cent of our benchtops that we are installing for clients are this engineered product. "So it would be a massive hit. It would be a massive blow." The problem may be policing small workshops. A study done at Monash University found that mandatory monitoring and testing of workers was not protecting all of them. "Of those diagnosed with silicosis, all were male mainly aged between 35 to 50 years. The average duration of work at the time of diagnosis of silicosis was just 12 years, and was as short as three years," the researchers in the university's School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine reported. "Almost 60 per cent of people with silicosis were born overseas, mostly from Asian countries."