Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was once hailed as the “miracle material” due to its resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals. However, it has since been revealed as a silent killer, causing myriad health issues in those exposed to it. This is particularly relevant for Australians, given our country’s history with asbestos mining and use.
In the early to mid 20th century, Australia was one of the largest consumers of asbestos, with the material being used extensively in construction, shipbuilding, and the automotive industry. The fibres were woven into fabrics or mixed into cements. It was a time when the dangers of this substance were largely unknown, and its versatility was celebrated.
However, by the late 20th century, the health risks associated with asbestos became increasingly apparent. Studies showed a strong link between asbestos exposure and several serious diseases, which led to a total ban on its use, import, and export in Australia in 2003.
Exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to severe health conditions. These include lung cancer, mesothelioma – a cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, and asbestosis – a chronic lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. These diseases often have a long latency period and can surface decades after the initial exposure.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with around 700 people diagnosed each year. This is a sobering statistic that underscores the ongoing impact of our past relationship with asbestos.
Despite the ban, the risk of exposure remains high in Australia due to the large number of homes and buildings that still contain asbestos. This is where professional services come into play. Regulations and guidelines are in place to control asbestos exposure, with organizations like the Australian Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) playing a crucial role in promoting safe handling of asbestos.
There are several licensed asbestos removalists in Perth who ensure the safe and compliant removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. These professionals are trained to handle asbestos safely, minimising the risk of fibre release during the removal process. It’s important to note that Western Australian law mandates that asbestos and asbestos-containing materials only be removed by licensed asbestos removalists.
To limit the risk of asbestos exposure, Australians are advised to avoid disturbing asbestos-containing materials in their homes or workplaces. If you suspect that a material contains asbestos, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Instead, contact a licensed professional who can assess the situation and carry out the necessary work safely and legally.
While asbestos has left a grim legacy in Australia, efforts are being made to mitigate its impact and protect future generations from its harmful effects. The dire health consequences of asbestos exposure underscore the importance of awareness, prevention, and safe handling of this hazardous material. This is a shared responsibility, and together we can help reduce the risk of asbestos-related diseases in our communities.