ASBESTOS: Important information
Health Hazard Because they are so small, asbestos fibres can easily penetrate body tissue. Their indestructibility means the body's natural defences cannot break them down. Their presence can lead to scarring of the lung (asbestosis) and a variety of fatal cancers. No-one knows exactly how many deaths have been caused by asbestos because it is often misdiagnosed. Its effects can take up to 40 years to become apparent. Who is At Risk? Any exposure (even trivial and remote in time) must be considered potentially harmful. Asbestos use has been very wide-spread e.g., insulation, roofing, walls and fences, brake linings, pipes, textiles, floor tiles, paints, cement, plastics, gaskets and many others. Persons who work directly or in-directly with these products must consider themselves at risk. Anyone whose job or house is located near an asbestos work areas must consider himself or herself at risk. Anyone who brings asbestos dust home on his or her clothes or boots must consider the family at risk. Children: "The risk of (fatal) Mesothelioma is very much higher when exposure occurs early in life"... USA Health and Safety Commission. How great is the risk? There is no minimum safe level of exposure. Risk increases with increased exposure. The risks of asbestos are well known. People who have been exposed to it in the past may develop problems in the future. There is no necessity for new exposure to take place. What can you do? Occupational exposure: when working with asbestos follow proper safety procedures as laid down by government and enforced by union bodies and have regular medical checkups. Stop Smoking: research shows that asbestos workers who smoke are 90 times more likely to develop lung cancer than workers who don't smoke. Be alert for warning signs: shortness of breath, persistent coughing, large rapid weight loss, chest or abdominal pain, blood in the sputum. Protect yourself and your family Avoid exposure to asbestos fibres All asbestos is potentially dangerous. It should either be professional sealed through permanent encapsulation and enclosure or removed. Occupational exposure to asbestos It would be safe to say the number of asbestos related illnesses is under- estimated. Any industrial process that causes a worker or his or her family to be exposed to any foreign substance in a form which enables it to gain entry into the body should be regarded as potentially hazardous. No-one should be required to work with any chemicals that can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed into the body. Many such work practice would be challenged through the relevant Occupational health and Safety Act. The number of people with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung cancer is expected to increase to 53,000 by the 2020. Mesothelioma is a horrendous disease which could be avoided with proper education and enforcement of correct occupational health and safety practices. For further information and advice, contact your Trade Union.
* * *Acknowledgements to the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia for the above material. Ella Sweeny may be contacted at the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia at: Email Ella Sweeny at email@example.com Phone (02) 9637 8759 or 0414 893 826 Fax (02) 9897 3259 There are also statutory bodies such as workers' compensation and dust disease boards, and support groups around Australia.