Asbestos-related diseases rising

Monday, 02 June, 2003

The number of people diagnosed with deadly asbestos-related diseases has reached epidemic levels and is expected to rise dramatically in the next 30 years, a victims' support group has warned.

Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia CEO Ella Sweeney said Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos-induced diseases in the world.

"Over the next 30 years thousands of people will be diagnosed with asbestos diseases."

Asbestos dust causes the deadly cancer mesothelioma, asbestosis and various other diseases.

These diseases often take between 30 and 40 years to develop, but once people have it they can die in less than 14 months and there is no cure.

The government has phased out asbestos in Australia and it will be completely banned next year with products containing asbestos to be banned from 2010.

However, Sweeney said the federal government should completely ban the dangerous dust and all products containing it immediately.

"A lot of people can be exposed in eight years when asbestos will be completely banned."

Sweeney said many people were unaware of the threat of asbestos and did not take adequate protections.

Asbestos-related diseases affect people who have worked in asbestos factories, in the construction industries, on the waterfront, at sea or just doing home renovations.

Sweeney said people renovating homes built before 1982 were especially at risk because of the asbestos likely to be present in their homes.

Asbestos was found in heat shields for welders, fireproof suits for firefighters, building materials, asbestos cement sheeting, insulation for buildings, ships' pipe lagging, roofing, walls and fences, pipes, textiles, floor materials, paints and brake linings.

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