Asbestos Awareness Week Brings Attention to Continued Threat

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) organization of Victoria, Australia recently announced the state’s upcoming Asbestos Awareness Week, 2011. Although a nationwide ban on the import and use of asbestos was put into place on December 31, 2003, the nation still holds the dubious distinction as an industrialized country with “one of the world's highest rate[s] of asbestos related diseases.” As the OHS explains, “The reason the union movement and Asbestos Diseases Support and Advocacy groups allocate a week each year as ‘Asbestos Awareness Week’ is because asbestos is such a huge problem still.” The press release from the Australian government safety commission explains that these asbestos-containing materials were found throughout public and private workplaces, industries, commercial buildings, and homes. Unfortunately, this widespread use of asbestos has created many health risks which continue in the nation today. Exposure to this friable material can lead to a number of illnesses which range in severity from serious to highly lethal. Among the most dangerous of these diseases is mesothelioma, a unique form of cancer which claims thousands of lives each year in this nation. This incurable cancer presents patients with a poor life expectancy and develops after an extended latency period of 20 to 50 years, meaning patients may continue to develop this cancer for many years to come. The OHS organization of Australia explains that the Asbestos Awareness Week “serves as a potent reminder of the effects of asbestos and provides an opportunity to remember and support the families affected by asbestos-related diseases.” The government organization also explains that elected safety and occupational health representatives also frequently use this week to make certain legal requirements concerning asbestos are being adhered to by employers. Activities at this event, which runs from Monday, November 21 to Friday, November 25, include film screenings regarding the dangerous material, guest speakers, seminars, and opportunities for participants to discuss this continued risk at many social gatherings. Promotional information for the event explained that last year a “coalition of unions around Australia,” as well as community, support and advocacy groups, and the Cancer Council “developed a National Declaration: Towards an Asbestos Free Australia.” The event guide further explains that this declaration has encouraged the national government to create the Asbestos Management Review, which is a “national inquiry which will make recommendations to government on how to deal with this nationwide problem.” This year’s celebration also marks the consolidation of two Melbourne-based support organizations, ADSVIC and AISS, under a new organization known as Asbestos Wise. References: Previous: Asbestos Found in Nevada Charter Schools Next: Asbestos Discovered and Contained in Chicago-area School