Asbestos was widely used for industrial and domestic purposes throughout Australia in the 20th century. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of the Australian government, Australia and the UK have the highest rates of asbestos-related deaths in the world.
Similar to the United States, asbestos was used in the construction industry extensively between the years 1945 to 1980. It was also substantively used in shipyards, power stations, boiler makers and plumbing. Numerous public buildings and about one-third of private buildings constructed during these years contained asbestos in concrete, cement sheeting, vinyl flooring, lagging of pipes and boilers and insulation.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that Australians became aware of the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. It was around this time that the first asbestos exposure cases, filed by injured workers against asbestos manufacturers, garnered national media attention.
In 1980, asbestos was phased out of Australia. It was officially banned from all building products in 1989, although it continued to be used in products like gaskets and brake linings. All mining of asbestos ended in 1983. On Dec. 31, 2003 asbestos was fully banned in Australia. It cannot be imported, used or recycled in any way.
Because of the long latency period associated with asbestos-related diseases, an increasing number of Australians are being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Between 1980 and 2020, it is estimated that 25,000 Australians will die from mesothelioma.
Currently, approximately 600 Australians develop mesothelioma every year. Experts predict that number will increase to 900 a year by 2020 because of the growing number of people who don’t take the proper precautions while renovating and refurbishing buildings built with asbestos before 1980.
Recent Australia Asbestos Headlines
- Asbestos Clean-Up to Blame for NBN Delays, Says Anthony Albanese
Work on building the Australian National Broadband Network has been delayed several times. The blame lies on asbestos clean-up. This delay means NBN Co. will connect approximately 250,000 fewer homes and businesses by June 2014 than it originally promised.
- Subcontractors May Sue over NBN Asbestos Shutdown
The delayed rollout of the National Broadband Network could result in legal action. Subcontractors are facing financial ruin because of the delays from the asbestos shutdown.
- Asbestos Found in Popular Reserve
Recently, asbestos was discovered in the Evans Reserve in Norlane, Australia. Council contractors identified the hazardous material while moving forward with a $1.14 million plan to redevelop the reserve to include two soccer fields, an expanded playground and improved paths.