This article was updated on 19 July 2022.
Students and staff at a Sydney secondary school, Castle Hill High School, fear they have been exposed to the nightmare product asbestos.
Asbestos, once used extensively in manufacturing and building, is still causing at least 90,000 deaths per year globally, and new deadly exposures, like the one suggested at Castle Hill High School, are still a major problem throughout the world.
We were contacted recently by American Edgar Sibauste, from the public outreach department of Asbestos.com. He wants us to draw attention to the problem and to highlight that his organisation can help people, especially those in the USA.
“Asbestos kills nearly 40,000 Americans each year from malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer and other related diseases. The U.S. is the only developed country that has not fully banned the carcinogen,” the Asbestos.com explains.
“Many people are developing deadly diseases as a result of asbestos exposure. It has never been more important to educate people about this dangerous mineral,” Edgar said.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral can be found in a number of forms. It was seen as a wonder mineral when first used as an insulator against heat, back in the 1800s, as steam power came into use in manufacturing. Its use took hold for many more years to come. Later it was used to insulate ships, steam engines, power plants and in railway yards.
From the 1940s it was made into building products, such as fibro boards and roofing. It was used in car manufacturing for items such as brake shoes and disc pads.
So exposure to it is often associated with manufacturing and production, with the male workers who dominated these industries in the twentieth century most vulnerable to the slow developing range of cancers it causes. But unfortunately, due to its domestic use, just about anybody can develop the asbestos related cancers.
Despite all that we know about asbestos, even today, you can find pipework made of asbestos which is cool enough to touch, while heated fluids course through them, which would otherwise burn you.
“Our website features extensive information about asbestos and even provides free informational books, packets, and a Patient Advocacy program that works 1-on-1 with individuals to help them find local doctors, treatment centers, and support groups,” said Edgar.
Australia’s recently formed Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency notes that Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos related diseases in the world.
Asbestos.com says: “Australia banned asbestos in 2004, but the effects of prior exposure continue to affect incidence rates in the country.
“According to the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, more than 700 Australians were diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. That averages to two cases diagnosed per day.
“The highest incidence rates were in Western Australia, with 4.9 cases diagnosed for every 100,000 people.”
Asbestos.com has also looked at the UK.
“The United Kingdom possesses one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, largely because the UK government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries outlawed the mineral’s use,” it notes.
The UK government didn’t ban the use of all types of asbestos until 1999. To read more about this, go to: https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/uk/
See an Australian Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency video here.