AIHW Mesothelioma Report: Australians are still dying from preventable asbestos exposure

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The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has said that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Mesothelioma in Australia 2018 report released today shows that Australians are still dying from preventable asbestos-related disease.

Mesothelioma is predominantly caused by exposure to asbestos – fibres which are invisible to the naked eye.

Rates of mesothelioma have risen over the last few decades. Non-occupational exposure continues to be a growing concern.

“Australia has one of the highest measured incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world, and this is likely to continue for many years,” said CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Justine Ross.

“These rising rates of mesothelioma show that despite a general level of awareness, more education of the public is needed into the future to ensure that exposure in either the residential or occupational setting does not continue.

“Third wave exposure – exposure in the home setting due to renovations or other work – is a big concern.” 

Mesothelioma cases have a poor prognosis – for the vast majority of sufferers, the disease is terminal. Mortality rates have shown little improvement over time. Tragically, the condition is often diagnosed at the late stages, as early symptoms can go unnoticed or be mistaken as other conditions or diseases.

The AMR records all cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in Australia since 1 July 2010—people included on the Registry are then invited to participate in a voluntary asbestos exposure assessment. For those assessed as being possibly or probably exposed either in the non-occupational setting only, or both occupational and non-occupational settings, the most common contexts were among participants who reported ever having: 

•    Undertaken major home renovations that involved asbestos products, or lived in a house undergoing renovations;
•    Serviced or worked on car brakes / clutches (excluding professional tradespeople) – e.g., people restoring their own cars at home, or doing work on their own vehicle;
•    Lived in the same home as someone with a job where they were exposed to asbestos and came home dusty;
•    Lived in a house made of fibro, built between 1947 – 1987. 

In the workplace, asbestos-related regulatory controls have been significantly tightened over time, as the dangers of asbestos became known.  Outside the workplace, or in the home, many of these regulatory controls do not apply. 

“In order to combat the rising rates of mesothelioma we need a three pronged approach – (1) increased rates of public knowledge as to the potentials of exposure in the residential setting – and what to do to avoid it; (2) continued strong and enforced laws for the occupational setting to keep people safe at work; and (3) enforced penalties for improper disposal or dumping in the community,” said Ms Ross.

Media inquiries: Tamsin Lloyd 0448 006 391