Lung expert urges tradespeople to stay vigilant against asbestos dangers - Institute for Respiratory Health

Lung expert urges tradespeople to stay vigilant against asbestos dangers

Monday, November 20, 2023 | News

During National Asbestos Awareness Week, 20-26 November, the Institute for Respiratory Health highlights that tragically an estimated 4,000 Australians will die each year from asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. That’s more than three times the road toll.

Tradespeople are at the greatest risk of exposure to asbestos fibres when carrying out, repairing or undertaking renovations on buildings that were built before 1990. One in three homes in Australia still have asbestos.

“Asbestos was banned in Australia more than two decades ago but the ban did not extend to asbestos materials already in place,” director of the Institute for Respiratory Health, Melita Markey said.

“It’s estimated that around 6.2 million tons of asbestos materials remain in our built environment and that asbestos is in one in three homes.

“Tradespeople can be exposed to this with many of them not knowing where it can be found or how to protect themselves from exposure.

“Asbestos was used in thousands of building products like vinyl floor tiles, adhesives, paints, electrical components, insulation and window putty.

“Fortunately, there are work health and safety laws prohibiting work involving asbestos but tradespeople can protect themselves in other ways.

“If you are not sure whether a material contains asbestos, don’t touch it. And don’t work with asbestos if you are not trained to do so or do not have the right tools and protective equipment.”

More research needs to be undertaken but this area is severely underfunded and those with asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer are suffering unnecessarily.

Investment into research paves the way for the development of effective treatments that can improve the quality of life for those with these preventable diseases. The Institute for Respiratory Health is leading in this space through its innovative clinical trials – which provide patients with access to cutting-edge therapies.

Asbestos kills silently and slowly with many not even knowing they have the disease. But research can change this through lung screening – which can lead to an early diagnosis and help to save lives.  

“I encourage all tradespeople, or anyone undertaking renovations, to think twice about asbestos during this National Asbestos Awareness Week,” said Ms Markey.

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