25 September 2023

Deadly legacy of asbestos lives on

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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed that two Australians were diagnosed with the deadly cancer, mesothelioma, on average every day in 2017.

Publishing its first data report since taking over management of the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) in 2017, AIHW said a large amount of asbestos still remained in buildings and other infrastructure around Australia and thousands of different products containing asbestos were still in use today.

The report, Mesothelioma in Australia, noted that mesothelioma was an aggressive cancer, and its primary cause was exposure to asbestos.

Spokesperson for AIHW, Lynelle Moon said that before being banned in Australia in 2004, asbestos was used in more than 3,000 products in the construction industry, in industrial plants and equipment, and in ships, trains and cars.

“A large amount of asbestos still remains in buildings and other infrastructure, and thousands of different products containing asbestos are still in use today,” Dr Moon said.

She said Australia had one of the highest incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world, with between 700 and 800 people diagnosed each year.

“This is largely due to the higher proportion of males working in industries where asbestos exposure may have occurred in the past, such as construction,” Dr Moon said.

“Of the people with mesothelioma who provided details of their occupations and residence since the AMR was established in 2010, 93 per cent were considered to have experienced some level of exposure to asbestos during their lives.”

She said that for men, most exposure was considered to be occupational, while for most females it was non-occupational (such as exposure while living in a house where asbestos was present).

The Australian Mesothelioma Registry is funded by Safe Work Australia and the eight-page Mesothelioma in Australia report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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