Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have been widely used in construction and manufacturing due to their heat resistance, durability, and insulating properties. However, this substance has turned into a significant health concern in Australia because when asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause severe health problems.
Health Implications of Exposure
When the tiny fibres are released into the air and inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs. Over time, these fibres can cause inflammation and scarring, leading to serious health issues. The main diseases caused by asbestos exposure are asbestosis (a chronic lung disease), lung cancer, and mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and abdomen).
These diseases are particularly insidious because they often remain dormant for years, even decades, after exposure. This latency period means that a person may not be diagnosed until long after they were first exposed to asbestos. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2018 alone, there were over 700 deaths from mesothelioma in Australia, illustrating the scale of the problem.
Asbestos in Australia
Asbestos was mined in Australia from the 1930s until the late 1980s and was used extensively in the construction industry. As a result, it can still be found today in many homes, schools, and workplaces across the country. Common locations for asbestos include roofing, insulation, and wall lining materials.
Importance of Proper Asbestos Removal
Proper removal of asbestos is critical to preventing airborne exposure. Disturbing asbestos-containing materials during renovations or demolitions can release harmful fibres into the air, posing a risk to anyone nearby. Therefore, Australian regulations stipulate that any work involving asbestos must be carried out by licensed professionals.
DIY asbestos removal is strongly discouraged because of the risk of improper handling. Not only can this put the individual at risk, but it can also lead to contamination of the surrounding environment, putting others at risk as well.
How to Properly Remove Asbestos
Asbestos removal should always be carried out by professionals who are trained in safe handling procedures. These procedures include using appropriate protective equipment, wetting down materials to minimise dust, and sealing off the work area to prevent contamination.
Once the asbestos has been removed, it must be disposed of safely at a designated facility. It’s important to note that it’s illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in regular garbage bins or recycling bins.
The health implications of asbestos exposure are severe, and with its widespread presence in Australia, it’s crucial to take the proper steps to ensure homes and workplaces are asbestos-free. This includes being aware of the potential presence of asbestos in older buildings, and if asbestos is found, contacting a professional to have it safely removed. By doing so, we can protect ourselves and future generations from the harmful effects of asbestos exposure.