A review group established by the Australian government says the hazards of bonded asbestos now warrant a revised stance on the material and that it should be considered unsafe.
According the Asbestos Management Review, natural disasters and their increase in incidences in Australia are the reason that the country is altering its stance on bonded asbestos.
Cyclones, earthquakes, floods and bush fires are some of the natural disasters the country faces, each of which put Australians at a “significantly higher risk” of developing asbestos-related diseases.
Even though the material was banned in the country in 2003, its prevalence in buildings and products still pose a real and current threat.
Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring yet toxic substance that is used in thousands of products and materials, such as piping, gaskets, drywall and insulation. Bonded asbestos refers to raw asbestos bonded to another material, such as cement.
When it is damaged, as it frequently is during disasters like floods and fires, toxic asbestos fibers are released into the air and cause significant harm to anyone exposed.
The use of asbestos needs to be curbed because of its effects on the Australian population, said Geoff Fary, chairman of the Asbestos Management Review.
“The Asbestos Management Review is an initiative by the Australian Government in response to calls for Australia to be asbestos-free by 2030. We have consulted and had input from more than 60 stakeholders representing employment, health and research organizations, federal, state and local government, unions and asbestos disease sufferers and support groups,” Fary said.
Asbestos exposure causes most cases of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart that affects between 2,000 and 3,000 Americans every year.
Australia’s Battle Against Asbestos
In Australia, mesothelioma accounts for more than 600 deaths annually. (There are nearly 3,000 mesothelioma-related deaths in the United States each year.)
According to the Australian government’s National Health and Medical Research Council, when it comes to asbestos-related deaths, Australia and the United Kingdom share the highest rates in the world.
Professor Bogda Koczwara, President of the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia, believes that more action and awareness is necessary.
“This is a highly lethal cancer with very poor survival,” Koczwara said. “Yet many people don’t realise they are exposing themselves to asbestos when they pull up their lino floors or recover relics from their flooded home.”