Today is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. What is Mesothelioma, you ask? Well…
Up until the early 1990s, asbestos saw good use as an insulating material in Australian homes. Back then, the deadly characteristics of asbestos were not well known and the material was considered useful because of its flexibility, tensile strength, chemical inertness and, of course, its low price. The stuff was readily available in its natural form in the environment and natural stuff couldn’t be bad for you, could it?
Well, it turns out that asbestos is not only bad for you, it’s pretty darn deadly. Asbestos fibres are tiny and easily inhalable. Since asbestos is basically a sort of rock fluff made of tiny rock filaments, the fibres are both sharp, straight and hard. So, when they’re breathed in, they lodge into the lung, causing irritation, inflammation and scarring, usually over a long period of time. There is no cure for asbestosis. Once you breathe the stuff in, it’s there to stay.
It gets worse, of course, because asbestos inhalation can also mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that affects the membrane between the lungs and the abdomen. It, too, cannot be cured.
Both asbestosis and mesothelioma are easily preventable. You just have to, like, not breathe in any asbestos. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Although the import, use and reuse of asbestos was banned in Australia in 2013, about 1 in 3 homes still harbour the stuff. Over a 1000 homes still contain Mr Fluffy brand asbestos roof filling and more are being found every day. Some unscrupulous contractors have taken to illegally dumping the stuff, or covering up asbestos insulation with normal insulation in the hopes that people won’t notice.
Thankfully, you can get your house tested for asbestos, and you should particularly if your house was renovated or built before 1990. You can do that by visiting the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) and doing a search for asbestos or by calling them on 1800 621 666. If you do find, or suspect that there’s asbestos in your workplace, you should contact the Department of Health.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get your house tested and let’s put asbestosis and mesothelioma behind us forever.