Asbestos Australia is focused on increasing awareness about the use and history of asbestos, as well as its impact today, years after it has been banned.
The use of asbestos dates back to 2500 BC where it was used for embalming and insulation. Interestingly, the first time asbestos-related deaths were reported was in 100 BC, but not much attention was given. After all, the people who died were slaves who wove asbestos clothes. The only treatment available to them were respirators made from animal bladders.
In the 1880s, asbestos mines were opened in many parts of the world, including South Africa, Italy, Russia, Canada, and America. In less than 2 decades, some “evil effects” began to raise concerns in British factories. It was not until 1911 when ventilation laws were introduced in Australia as a result of widespread lung disease. Almost 30 years later, asbestos dust was labelled a menace in Wittenoom, Western Australia. Despite safety measures, cases of lung disease began to be reported in 1959. In spite of all the complaints around asbestos, some companies continued to install asbestos in people’s roofs for insulation, at very low prices. By 1973, 27 people had died due to asbestos-related problems. As more people became aware, and as media coverage increased, many people who had been exposed to asbestos began to seek justice in court. By 1989 500 people who worked at Wittenoom had died, 1500 more were likely to follow suit.
In 2003, a nationwide ban on the manufacture and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials took effect.
In 2017, there are still cases of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is being dumped in public places, and people are still getting exposed during and after infrastructure works. In residential properties, all homes built before 1980 are likely to have asbestos or asbestos products. During renovations, it is advisable to have a sample of the materials analyzed by a laboratory (especially the roofing, pipes, flooring, heater insulation, and cladding).
Asbestos Australia is focused on increasing the awareness of asbestos use and effects. At the workplace, we also advocate for proper training, so that workers do not get involved in handling asbestos, except in prescribed circumstances.