Asbestos: It will take your breath away

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You don’t go to work expecting that your employer will intentionally put you in harm’s way. You also don’t go to work expecting to be poisoned by a substance that causes death to all that inhale it. However, that was and is reality for thousands of tradies, factory workers and site officers who were working in and around asbestos up until the mid 80’s. Asbestos disease is a silent and sudden killer, there is currently no cure and limited compensation for the families affected.

So what is this horrible substance, and how did companies get away with allowing the general public to work with such a harmful material?

Once upon a time Australia was the largest user of asbestos in the world. Despite this, since the late 1800’s there have been questions and fear surrounding the use of asbestos. In 1950 the Western Australian Commissioner of Public Health reports to his Minister that “Asbestos dust, if inhaled, constitutes a very grave risk and is, if anything, worse than silicosis”. However, this didn’t stop the ongoing use of the product.

The James Hardie Bradford Insulation was one of the largest manufacturers of asbestos. The company provided the mineral that was used to build homes, ships and factories. To this day approximately one third of all homes built in Australia contain asbestos products.

James Hardie knew of the devastating affects of asbestos, James Hardie continued to manufacture the product and James Hardie ensured that workers didn’t know the dangers until it was too late.

It wasn’t until 2005 that NSW Government and James Hardie signed an agreement, providing $4.5 billion in funding for Australia’s asbestos victims.

But money does not compare to the intentional loss of life.

More than 10,000 people have died from asbestos related diseases since the early 1980s. Cancer experts predict, an additional 25,000 people are expected to die from it over the next four decades.

All it takes is one unlucky breath and one tiny fibre.

The list of diseases include:

  1. Mesothelioma
  2. Asbestosis
  3. Lung Cancer
  4. Laryngeal Cancer
  5. Ovarian Cancer
  6. Testes Cancer
  7. Pleural plaques
  8. Pleural thickening
  9. Pleural effusion

Mesothelioma is the fastest acting. Death usually occurs 6-18 months after diagnosis.

The cancer forms in the lungs. It waits silently until it’s ready to fester and grow. The initial symptoms are basic; the disease tries to trick you with a sore throat or a slight cough. It will annoy you until you finally make the appointment to see your doctor.

Mesothelioma attacks the mesothelium which is the protective lining that covers many of the body’s vital organs. Patients will struggle to breathe, talk and function. There is no cure. Sufferer’s rely of chemotherapy to only lengthen their lives.

This loss of life is devastating and unjust. Asbestos shouldn’t continue to take lives however, it does and will for decades to come. You can help the victims and their families by supporting the work of the below charities. Let’s help find a cure for this horrific disease.


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