Caption: Ray and Janis Beck spend his last days together in hospital in the time before they decided to turn off the machine keeping him alive. Photo: Contributed.
By Richard Bruinsma
A Palmview woman whose bricklayer step-father died from passively inhaling sand dust during his working life, has urged Sunshine Coast councillors to reject the sand mine proposed at Diddillibah.
Lisa Thomas said her step-father, Ray Beck, had worked his entire life as a brick layer in country Victoria, but the sand dust he hardly noticed during those years turned out to be his killer.
“He never worked in a city, no city pollution was involved, it was all out in the open in a country environment, exposed to the dust on a building site,” Mrs Thomas explained.
“He was a really virile hard working fellow and then he started coughing up blood, and then lung scans showed he had silicosis and he started deteriorating pretty quickly.”
Mrs Thomas said her stepfather never believed his work was dangerous in that way.
“It’s not an intense exposure to dust, it’s very similar to what would be in the air at a sand mine.”
He was diagnosed at age 65 and two months – two months outside the cut off age to be eligible for a lung transplant. About two years later he was forced to use a ventilator to stay alive. He died soon after.
He had been planning on moving to be with family to the Sunshine Coast.
Mrs Thomas relayed her personal story in emails to all the Sunshine Coast councillors.
“The silica dust, when inhaled, works like small blades scarring the lungs which, over time, become stiffened making it difficult to breathe,” she wrote.
“Exposure levels can be mild and may not show for 20 – 30 or more years, but can cause long term irreversible effect.
“So why on earth would we consider putting a sand mine near residential areas and schools!?”
She told them how her step-father and mother Janis made the difficult decision together to turn off the machine that was keeping him alive.
“This was one of the saddest days of my life,” she wrote the councillors.
“Why, even if there is only a small risk of ongoing dust exposure, would we consider putting a sand mine so close to residential areas and schools?
“PLEASE reject the application for a sand mine in this area, the potential negative impact to people’s lives far outweighs the financial gain by the company proposing the development.”
Most of the councillors replied, thanking her for her letter, extending their condolences, and assuring they would keep her experiences in mind during the sand mine assessment process.
The firm proposing the mine, Maroochydore Sands, has urged interested community members to review the company’s website for details about the project. www.maroochydoresands.com