Asbestos in the Community
Just after the turn of the century, the first wave
of asbestos diseases and deaths occurred in the asbestos
mining industry. The second wave attacked workers in
the asbestos manufacturing industry. The third wave
affected former building and construction workers and
continues to do so. Now, due to decaying asbestos products
the fourth wave of asbestos diseases, more subtle and
insidious, is stalking a wide range of Australians
at work, at school and in the home. In particular Home
Renovators the “DIY” generation.
of the fifth wave is still yet to come (workers from
asbestos removal industry and consequence of uncontrolled-unsafe
removal of asbestos cement products).
NATURALLY OCCURING ASBESTOS
Recently the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental
Epidemiology were concerned of naturally occurring
asbestos in China which may have dangerous effects
on human health. It would appear that naturally occurring
asbestos has been defined as asbestos mineral found
in soil or rocks that may be disturbed by natural weathering
and human activities, including road and house construction,
agricultural activities, forestry and urban development.
These activities may lead to abundant asbestos fibres
being released into the environment and may result
in potentially higher health risks for those exposed. Some
studies have reported that the risk of Mesothelioma
was significantly affected by the distance of homes
to an Industrial source of asbestos. However, asbestos
fibres derived from naturally occurring asbestos may
influence larger areas compared with Industrial sources.
It would appear Western Australia has an abundant of
naturally occurring asbestos, particularly in the areas
which are now subject to incredible exploration which
no doubt ought to be seriously investigated.
Australian government policy, guidelines and regulations
have largely dealt with commercial and industrial asbestos
sources as well as the effects of asbestos mining.
Naturally occurring sources of asbestos have largely
been over looked as a potential source of exposure.
This is despite numerous well documented occurrences
of asbestos minerals in rock and soils.
Brief History of Asbestos in the Community
- Australia first began importing asbestos products
from Poisy, France in 1903
- November 1916 Wunderlich Limited
opened its first “Durasbestos” factory
in Cabarita on the Parramatta River NSW
- 6 months later James Hardie commenced manufacture
of asbestos products
Diseases caused by exposure to asbestos are claiming
many lives and affecting many families around the world,
every day of the year, in numbers that rival the worst
- Exposure to Asbestos dust is responsible for more
deaths than any other single work-related cause in
- Over 2,600 deaths in 2008 due to the past inhalation
of Asbestos fibres
- ADSA estimates that 50,000 more will die by 2025
from preventable Asbestos Diseases.
- Top 5 Contributors to Asbestos Diseases in Australia
- James Hardie & Coy Pty Ltd
- CSR - Colonial Sugar Refinery Limited
- Wunderlich Limited
- Midalco Pty Ltd formerly know as Australian
Blue Asbestos Pty Ltd
- Asbestos Mines Pty Ltd
Genesis of Asbestos Caused Diseases in Australia
On May 31st 1916 James Hardie set up a company Asbestos
Slate & Sheets Manufacturing Co Limited to manufacture
asbestos cement building products. A few decades
later James Hardie Co. had asbestos manufacturing
plants in every State of Australia.
Unsafe Work Practices – James
Hardie Factory Rivervale
Many unsafe work practices took place at the CSR mining
and milling operation for blue asbestos at Wittenoom,
Western Australia. This has lead to what is described
as or is one of the greatest industrial
disaster in Australia and is comparable to similar
catastrophes such as Bhopal, Seveso and Minamato.
At Wittenoom thousands of workers and their families,
visitors, tourists, consultants and Government officials
were exposed to lethal levels of blue asbestos a thousand
times higher than occupationally regulated at the time.
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