Rising number of mesothelioma cases in Australia

The number of people that are being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in Australia is increasing. Australia already has the highest number of people with mesothelioma in the world, and the number of “third wave” victims is further contributing to this statistic.

The first wave included the miners; the majority of these miners came from the Wittenoom blue asbestos mine which was located in Pilbara, Western Australia. The mine was shut down in 1967, however the legacy of asbestos continues to resonate in our society today. The second wave was comprised of individuals who worked directly with asbestos – such as those who worked in factories, builders, plumbers, electricians or carpenters.
Presently, the number of “third wave” victims is becoming more evident. The third wave includes home renovators and family members of those who worked with asbestos. The recent discovery of asbestos in Telstra’s pits has reiterated the notion that the fight against asbestos is far from over. Despite the fact that the use of asbestos was phased out by the 1980s, and banned entirely in 2004, the long latency period of asbestos means that new cases of mesothelioma will continue to increase every year.

Following public pressure, the Australian government is currently removing asbestos and implementing national plans to deal with the issue at hand. For example, a new Australian Asbestos Safety and Education Agency has been implemented to remove asbestos from governmental and commercial buildings. This national plan also aims to increase asbestos awareness amongst the public and address illegal dumping of the poisonous material.

The number of cases of mesothelioma in Australia means that treatment of mesothelioma in Australia is becoming more of an issue that needs addressing.

Asbestos discovered at Bathurst High School

Asbestos was discovered one metre below the soil of Bathurst High School in New South Wales. Work on their $7.4 million gymnasium was immediately halted, and the school principal, Mr. Hastings, notified all parents of the students via a text message.

The text message informed parents that the students had not been exposed to the asbestos, and as such, their safety was not at risk. The text also assured parents that the toxic substance had been safely secured by professionals. Parents were directed to the school’s website for any further relevant information.

According to Mr. Hastings, it is suspected that the asbestos was left over from the demolition of various houses from thirty years ago. Fortunately, over the thirty year period, the asbestos remained undisturbed and stagnant underground, as it was covered by soil and grass. This means that the students had not been exposed to this asbestos.

The asbestos was discovered during the excavation of the site in preparation for the new gymnasium. Fortunately the material discovered was the safest form of asbestos, and it was not disturbed upon discovery, due to its structure and the wetness of the soil. The asbestos has not posed a threat to any worker or student within the vicinity.

The cost of removing asbestos in New South Wales

Despite the fact that the ACT government has spent roughly two million dollars demolishing a house that contains ‘Mr Fluffy asbestos’, nothing is being done to remediate homes across the rest of New South Wales that contain the deadly fibre.

In the 1990s, a one million dollar asbestos removal program was carried out in ACT. This program took place after a business known as ‘Mr Fluffy’ imported pure amosite asbestos from South Africa, one of the most toxic forms of asbestos, and installed it into a number of houses in the 1970s as a form of roof insulation.

The NSW government, despite being aware of the asbestos issue at the time, failed to take any action. The toxic insulation is still present in an unknown number of houses in Queanbeyan and on the south coast. Dr Keith McKenry, the man who oversaw the removal of asbestos in ACT during the 1990s, described the lack of action by the NSW government as ‘criminally negligent’. He further states that although there was a large amount of evidence which demonstrated the detrimental effects of asbestos, the NSW government did not take any action to stop ‘Mr Fluffy’.

Residents often refuse to remove asbestos from their houses, as it costs roughly $40,000 to remove the toxic substance. In 2005 the Queanbeyan Council offered to pay twenty five percent of the remediation costs if the state or federal government were also willing to compensate the residents. Unfortunately, the state and federal government did not agree to this proposal.

Asbestos cases in New South Wales have affected many lives. Mesothelioma in New South Wales seems to be on the rise. Thus the reduction of asbestos exposure in NSW is a positive step to take, which will hopefully result in the number of mesothelioma cases in NSW dropping.

Asbestos pipes to be removed from Manuka Oval in Canberra

Manuka Oval, located in Canberra, is set to undergo its first renovation in thirty years. The Oval was first constructed in 1924, and asbestos-covered irrigation pipes were inserted into the field in the 1970s.

The $35 million renovation plan involves increasing the number of permanent cricket pitches on the ground, constructing infrastructure for the spectators and erecting a new boundary fence. However the first and foremost task of this redevelopment plan is to remove the asbestos piping.

The asbestos was discovered before the commencement of the other projects, and is not expected to delay the rest of the renovation. David Dawes, director general of the economic development directorate, states that cautionary steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the workers and of the public. According to Dawes, “The contractor will ensure any asbestos pipe found will be dug up, bagged, sealed and removed by licensed specialists in accordance with approved quality control and environment management plans.” Further, Dawes assures it is unlikely that the pipes will be found directly beneath the playing area. It is expected that the initial stage of redevelopment – that is, the clean-up process – will be finished by the end of 2020.

Coffey Environments Australia Pty Ltd has conducted a study of the Oval. Their report reveals that the soil in the playing area is not likely have been contaminated by the toxic particles, and is considered suitable for re-use in other areas.

Many residents of Canberra have been affected by asbestos conditions in the past. Mesothelioma in Canberra and asbestosis in Canberra have impacted on many. The removal of asbestos from the Australian Capital Territory is important to try and ensure less people in the future in Canberra are not diagnosed with asbestos conditions.