Asbestos is a natural mineral that contains excellent durability, fire resistance, and insulating properties. It was popular to use in construction and across a range of other industries between the 1940s and 1980s. Exposure to asbestos can cause serious health issues, of which were only fully understood in later years.
Worldwide asbestos production increased with the industrial revolution. In Australia, the use of asbestos was one of the highest per person in the world up until the mid-1980s. It was widely used in the Australian residential building industry, which is why approximately one-third of our current homes contain asbestos products (The Australian Government Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, 2020).
Australia was one of the seventeen countries that banned asbestos on the 31st of December 2003. Seventeen years later asbestos-related diseases are still a serious issue for our nation. According to the report Mesothelioma in Australia 2019, published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020, Australia has one of the highest recorded mesothelioma cases in the world, with a steady increase since 1982. 724 Australians lost their lives to the disease in 2019.
Possible health-related symptoms of asbestos can take anything from five to forty years to develop. Individuals exposed to asbestos in the 1980s may still develop symptoms. This is out of our control. What we can control are the measures taken to manage the remaining asbestos that is still in our building structures. Asbestos exposure due to wear and tear, renovations, and demolition will continue to be a problem in years to come. That is why it is important to follow a code of practice and use competent industry professionals to register, manage, and remove this toxic mineral in a safe and monitored way.
Last year we shared four instalments for our segment series Asbestos Awareness Month. Follow the links below to read more about mesothelioma, asbestos-containing materials, and asbestos registration and management.
1. What is Asbestos?
2. Do You Have Materials Containing Asbestos in Your House?
3. The Stages of Asbestos Management
4. Why Asbestos Should Concern You
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, August 2020. Mesothelioma in Australia 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/558c0b6d-e872-4a0f-953d-23ae6afab3b0/aihw-can-134.pdf.aspx?inline=true
Australian Government Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, November 2020. Asbestos use in Australia. retrieved from: https://www.asbestossafety.gov.au/about-asbestos/about-asbestos#asbestos-use-in-australia