The prevalence of asbestos in the Australian working environment lasted, in some cases, into the 1990s, which has led to a surge in asbestos exposure-related diagnoses.
While at first it was thought that it took years of exposure to cause the lung cancer mesothelioma, new cases have proven that even small amounts of exposure to the carcinogenic mineral can be enough to cause serious problems.
Even more startling, it still takes years – decades, even – for the symptoms to show up. In one instance, a UK man was diagnosed with mesothelioma more than 40 years after he was exposed to asbestos.
However, when the doctors made the diagnoses, they learned the man had only spent a couple days working at a factory where the asbestos was located. This, the doctors said, was enough to cause the serious health problems more than four decades later.
A lingering problem
Such stories are certainly eye-opening, but perhaps even more jarring are the reports that asbestos exposure is still a very real issue to this day.
According to Fairfax Media, investigators with WorkCover New South Wales recently found small amounts of asbestos in the same area where a medical clinic is slated to be built. The same investigation turned up asbestos along the cement walls of canals outside Settlement City.
The asbestos found in the wall was particular concerning for the city council, considering it was first brought to their attention back in 2005. Asbestos abatement specialist Roger Kirby told the news source he was astonished the city still had not mitigated the asbestos risk.
"What happens to the young kid that breaks a bit off a wall and chucks it at his mate, or plays with it and is at risk of breathing in asbestos dust," Mr Kirby stated.
The danger posed by this asbestos finding is nothing to sneeze at, and Mr Kirby and residents have good reason to be up in arms.
Statistics from the National Health and Medical Research Council show that thousands of Australians have already died from asbestos exposure, and considering how many decades it was used in construction, thousands more will likely die in the coming decades.
Mesothelioma isn't the only culprit though. Asbestosis can also cause serious health problems and is directly linked to asbestos exposure. Other forms of lung cancer have also been noted.
All over the world, asbestosis claims and lawsuits are filed by victims and their families, who are often compensated for the problems.