More than half a million Australians are at risk of getting cancer from silica dust and they might not even realise it.

Cancer Council Australia says around 600,000 people working in mines, farms, construction and demolition jobs are exposed to the dust, which is linked to more than 230 cases of lung cancer each year.

“Silica is surprisingly common – it’s found in stone, rock, gravel, and clay, as well as bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic materials,” Terry Slevin from Cancer Council Australia said.

“It’s so small you can’t see it- but if you breathe it in, in some cases it can lead to lung cancer.”

Mr Slevin said people needed to make sure they had proper ventilation and use personal respiratory equipment while working in areas that may leave them exposed to silica dust.

Australians doing home renovations themselves also may not be aware of the risk.

Mr Slevin said DIY warriors should follow guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to silica.

The warnings come during Safe Work Month, with Australians urged to be aware of all the health risks in the workplace.

“The other major risks include UV exposure, diesel fumes, asbestos and second hand tobacco,” Mr Slevin said.

Brandon Vigon

By David Sigston