Today, most Australians are aware of the health risks of excessive exposure to asbestos – a harmful silicate mineral often found in homes constructed between 1945 and the early 1980s.
In fact, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has estimated that the total number of mesothelioma cases in Australia will exceed 18,000 by the year 2020.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure, and results in inflammation, scarring and genetic damage to the lungs.
Symptoms of mesothelioma often take several decades to appear, but once identified, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often required.
While all three varieties of asbestos – crocidolite, chrysotile and amosite – have now been banned from building products, these minerals can still be found in many Australian properties.
Those most at risk of asbestos exposure are those people who have worked or who are working in the construction industry, in roles such as demolition, carpentry, roofing or labouring.
Auto mechanics, bricklayers, building inspectors, furnace workers, insulators, maintenance workers and painters are all amongst those who are also considered at high risk of asbestos exposure, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Generally, people living in homes with asbestos need not worry unless the property has been damaged or the asbestos is crumbling in some way.
However if you think that you may have become a victim of asbestos exposure, it’s important to know your rights and to understand that you have recourse.