There is a tendency to believe that asbestos issues are behind us. With the rules, regulations and bans in place regulating its use, there is no way we would have to worry about a new outbreak of asbestos-related illnesses, right?
Wrong. Because asbestos is inexpensive and is also an effective building material, many countries continue to use it, disregarding dangers associated with it. There is an expectation in some corners that a new wave of people across the world will be affected by asbestos exposure and will pay the price for that exposure.
Australia’s citizens have seen more than their fair share of asbestos-related illnesses, with the second-highest rate of incidence so far. And these numbers have yet to peak.
The first wave of workers to fall victim to asbestos-related diseases were miners, followed by those who made asbestos sheeting and then by tradesmen. Home renovators are expected to make up the next set of sufferers, after they have torn down asbestos walls, roofs and fences without knowing or understanding the dangers of the materials.
Between 1982 and 2007 there were more than 10,000 cases of asbestos related illness diagnosed in Australia. It’s estimated that an additional 13,000 Australians will be diagnosed by 2020.
Australia is not alone.
Most of the world’s asbestos is imported by developing countries, including many in the Asia-Pacific region. India is noteworthy because it aggressively imports asbestos from Canada, but India is only second to China in the amount of asbestos imported. Both countries utilize asbestos for construction, brake pads, gaskets and cloth because the products can be made inexpensively and because asbestos can make those products fire- and heat-resistant.
While China has health and handling standards and regulations in place, Chinese factories flagrantly fail to respect the Chinese law. India does not mandate any proper handling procedures: many workers wear no gloves or chemical suits and use only a handkerchief over their faces as protection.
With no current plans to regulate or reduce asbestos, China is predicted to reach 15,000 asbestos-related deaths by 2035. India does not track its cancer cases, making it difficult to get an estimate of the asbestos-related disease epidemic there but we can only imagine it will be in the thousands in the next few years.
Worldwide, more than 107,000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases because they were exposed to it at work. Several thousand more die each year from exposure through DIY work at home. Still more go unreported or undocumented.
However, the international tide is turning against asbestos. A growing number of countries are passing laws to restrict or ban asbestos and more than 50 countries have at least some form of asbestos ban in place.
Some still say that solid change is happening too slowly and that many more people will die from asbestos-related diseases until more is done.
What do you think about this coming epidemic? Is this real or hype? Do you think more laws should be put in place worldwide?