According to an article on SafetyCulture.com.au, the World Health Organisation together with the International Agency for Research on Cancer has issued a joint statement to express their concern about the cancer-causing ability of asbestos in its many forms. The organisations have stressed the need to eliminate asbestos use and reduce the prevalence of the substance in the environment (for example in old buildings). The article quotes the organisations as stating that “stopping the use of all forms of asbestos is the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases”, – it seems rather obvious but implementing a safe strategy to do this is more tricky.
The statement was issued as controversy surfaced about the conflicts relating to asbestos use in Russia. A scary but true fact also stated in the article is that Australia has one of the worst cases of asbestos prevalence in the environment as compared to other countries.
The use of asbestos has been banned in the country since the 1980s. However, as many as two or three structures built between World War II and 1983 still contain asbestos. Oz has one of the highest (if not the highest) numbers of Mesothelioma infections in the world. In addition to other forms of cancers and disease, Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure over time and is the cancer of the pleura and may only occur 20 to 40 years after the exposure occurs. This disease grows and spreads quickly before the symptoms appear which makes early diagnosis and treatments harder. The average survival time after diagnosis is only 6-18 months and takes only a very small amount of exposure to trigger.
Read what the post on SafetyCulture.com.au had to say:
In the joint statement, WHO and IARC also confirmed the accuracy of the data and statements of the scientific results published in the British Journal of Cancer, which estimated the asbestos-related lung cancer burden from mesothelioma mortality. The study found that all types of asbestos fibres kill “at least twice as many people through lung cancer than through mesothelioma, except for crocidolite – a form of asbestos found in South Africa, Bolivia and Australia.
The study also stated that Australia is one of the countries having the heaviest burden of asbestos cancer.
According to The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), there have been at least 4,700 deaths from mesothelioma in the country since records began in the 1980s. It is estimated that more than 25,000 Australians will die from asbestos-related diseases in the next 40 years.
“The typical lag of 20 to 40 years between exposure and the onset of symptoms of disease. This can make detection, prevention and risk management for asbestos related health risk very difficult. It is estimated that the peak of the epidemic of asbestos-related disease in Australia will not occur until the 2020s,” said NHMRC in its website.
“The extremely widespread use of asbestos in construction in Australia last century means that exposure to it is also widespread. The weathering and ageing of asbestos-containing materials and renovation of buildings containing asbestos products may continue to release asbestos fragments for many years.”