The federal government has made the prevention of Asbestosis and other conditions caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres a priority.
The 2013/14 Budget, announced earlier this month by the Gillard government, included the provision of $10.5 million to be invested in developing ‘a national approach to protect Australians from asbestos-related diseases’.
Asbestos was long used in construction materials before being banned from building products in the late 1980s.
That means there are likely many structures which still contain asbestos materials.
In the majority of cases, these are not dangerous to occupants or workers, as they are hidden away in insulation materials and are stable.
However, wear and tear over the years and intrusive works such as renovation and demolition can expose this dangerous material and sometimes lead to asbestos dust and fibres becoming airborne.
It is then that anyone in the vicinity becomes at risk of inhaling this highly dangerous dust.
Minister for employment and workplace relations Bill Shorten described asbestos as “a cruel, indiscriminate killer”.
Mr Shorten said that due to its widespread use until only very recently, it continued to pose a threat to Australians.
“In 2010, 642 Australians died from Mesothelioma, and for every death attributed to Mesothelioma, it’s estimated two further people die from lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos,” stated the minister in a May 14 statement.
The federal government established the Office of Asbestos Safety last year, and it is currently working to develop a new national plan to tackle the material and its ongoing legacy.
That plan, which will be developed in consultation with states, territories and other stakeholders, is expected to be finished by July 1.
Once drawn up, it will be implemented by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, announced earlier this year by Mr Shorten.
The agency is tasked with working together with governments, unions, industry and support groups to protect Australians from asbestos.
“This is an example of this government’s commitment to protect Australians by leading the first nationally co-ordinated approach to handling asbestos beyond our workplaces,” stated Mr Shorten.