More on the latest hot topic we’ve been discussing of late – asbestos. Read below for some asbestos fast facts.
These days, just the mention of asbestos is enough to send a shiver down your spine – and rightly so.
Australia has the second-highest mesothelioma death rate in the world, with 641 citizens dying from it in 2014 alone (see http://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/australia/ for more details).
Most people are well aware today of the health risks related to asbestos but unfortunately many people are still at risk around the world. People have been aware of the connection between asbestos and various health problems, including mesothelioma since the 1930’s. The UK has the highest mesothelioma death rate in the world and there it has been estimated by the British Lung Foundation that someone dies every 5 hours as a result of exposure to asbestos.
Shockingly, asbestos is still mined today, despite this.
Unlike many toxic manmade substances found in your home and workplace, asbestos is actually a naturally occurring material which is mined in Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Brazil (and until 2011, still in Canada!). In fact, according to Workplace Safety Blog (https://rospaworkplacesafety.com/2013/08/12/asbestos-facts/), in 2009, two million tonnes of asbestos were mined worldwide.
Australia’s high incidence of mesothelioma corresponds with our extensive use of asbestos, particularly between the 1950s to 1970s when we had the highest rate of asbestos use per capita in the world.
In fact, asbestos wasn’t just used for house insulation. It was actually used in a wide variety of applications between the 1930s to 1950s. For example, asbestos was used to make a fake snow product that was used as a Christmas decoration, it appeared in the filters of some cigarettes and even as an added ingredient in a brand of toothpaste (apparently due to the abrasive fibers!).
The Australian government (http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/723/Asbestos-related-Disease-Indicators-2012.pdf) reports that over the period 1998–99 to 2009–10 there were 1,394 hospitalisations related to asbestosis, of which 97% were men. Sadly, this isn’t very surprising, given that men were predominantly employed in industries where asbestos was used.