how common is the health risk from asbestos exposure?
How Common is the Health Risk from Asbestos Exposure?
According to a report by Bray et al. (2017), Australia has one of the highest measured incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer affecting the mesothelial cells which cover most internal organs. Although the cancer commonly forms in the chest, it is not a lung cancer and requires different treatment techniques.
Why is this linked to Asbestos exposure?
Asbestos exposure is theprimary proven cause of mesothelioma. It is the result of asbestos particles being inhaled or ingestedwhen material containing the substance is disturbed. While exposure can occur in a wide variety of settings, it can be more common in factories, construction, mining, shipbuilding, and manufacturing facilities.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare provide an annual report detailing the statistics of those diagnosed with mesotheliomaor where it was noted as the cause of death. A few of the more shocking statistics from the report were:
On average, two people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in Australia each day.
642 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in 2020.
More than 9 in 10 participants of an exposure assessment were determined as having possible or probable exposure to asbestos.
The effects of exposure to asbestos aren’t just detrimental to a person’s health, they also cause a strain on our healthcare system. According to the report in the 2018–19 financial year, the estimated health system expenditure for mesothelioma cases was $27.4million (total cancers $11.8 billion) (AIHW 2021).
Asbestos-related regulatory controls have beensignificantly tightened over time, asbestoscontaining materials (ACMs) have been bannedin Australia since December 2003, and it is now illegal to make, use or import it from anothercountry. However, a large amount of asbestos remains in older structures and products,which has the potential to expose both workers and the public to asbestos, if relevant safety procedures are not followed.
What is the future of preventing exposure to asbestos?
Having the ability to identify when airborne particles of asbestos are present, in real-time, is the next step to ensuring those working in high-risk exposure industries are not affected.
The Alert PRO 1000 is a complimentary risk reduction tool used alongside the current method. The device can help prevent prolonged unintentional exposure by providing a real-time alert (and downloadable data) when asbestos containing materials have been disturbed and fibres released.
Due to its aggressive nature, mesothelioma has a very low survival rate, and this has shown littleimprovement over time (Faig et al. 2015).Most of the damage was done while the effects of working with asbestos were unknown, however, with increased awareness and advanced technology, we can prevent many more from being exposed to this deadly risk.
The full report from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare using data from the AustralianMesothelioma Registry, the National Mortality Database and the Australian Cancer Database can be accessed here.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Mesothelioma in Australia 2020. Cat. no. CAN 143. Canberra: AIHW
Bray, F., et al. (2018) Global Cancer Statistics 2018: GLOBOCON Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 68, 394-424. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21492