MEDIA RELEASE: 1 November 2015
Don Burke OAM Launching National Asbestos Awareness Month Appealing to all Australians to Stop Playing Renovation Roulette and Get to kNOw Asbestos this NOvember!
Visit asbestosawareness.com.au - It’s not worth the risk!
NOvember Is National Asbestos Awareness Month 2015 - Asbestos Awareness Day is Friday 27 November
On Monday 2 November, Don Burke OAM, Ambassador for national Asbestos Awareness Month (1-30 November) will issue a heartfelt plea to every Australian to make it their business to Get to kNOw Asbestos this NOvember!
Joining the Asbestos Education Committee (AEC), the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) and the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA), Don said, “There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres therefore it’s vital that we all learn about the risks of disturbing asbestos, how to identify products and most importantly; how to manage and dispose of asbestos safely.
“The grave concern we share is that without knowing where asbestos might be located in and around homes, and without knowing how to manage it safely, people are playing ‘Renovation Roulette’ and putting their health and the health of families and bystanders at risk if they release asbestos fibres into the air which can be inhaled and cause life-threatening diseases.
“We know that at least 1 in 3 Australian homes contain asbestos in some form or another and with the popularity of renovation programs rising inspiring a boom in home renovations, homeowners, renovators, tradies and handymen must make it their business to Get to kNOw Asbestos this NOvember by visiting asbestosawareness.com.au to protect themselves and families from dangerous asbestos fibres,” Don said.
Peter Dunphy, Chair of the Asbestos Education Committee heading the national Asbestos Awareness Month campaign said, “Because Australia was among the highest consumers of asbestos products in the world, asbestos-containing materials are common in homes built or renovated before 1987 with a broad range of products still commonly found in and around brick, weatherboard, fibro and clad homes.
“People would be surprised at where they might find the hidden danger of asbestos. It could be anywhere! Under floor coverings such as carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings and ceiling space (insulation), eaves, garages, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, extensions to homes, garages, outdoor toilets, backyard and farm sheds, chook sheds and even dog kennels.
“By visiting asbestosawareness.com.au people will be able to take the 20 Point Safety Check and easily search to identify the sorts of products to look for, the locations of where they might be found and learn how to manage and dispose of asbestos safely,” he said.
Barry Robson, President of the ADFA and long-time campaigner and advocate for workers and families affected by asbestos-related diseases said, “Renovators risk exposing themselves and families to asbestos fibres if they don’t know where asbestos might be in their homes.
“Tradespeople are particularly vulnerable as they can come into contact with asbestos-containing materials on the job every day so they must be doubly aware of where it might be and what to do to prevent releasing fibres that can be inhaled.
“When it comes to asbestos, don’t play Renovation Roulette! Don’t cut it! Don’t drill it! Don’t drop it! Don’t sand it! Don’t saw it! Don’t scrape it! Don’t scrub it! Don’t dismantle it! Don’t tip it! Don’t waterblast it! Don’t demolish it! And whatever you do... Don’t dump it!” Mr Robson said.
Prior to 1987, many homes were constructed from low-cost fibro (bonded asbestos cement sheeting) to meet the growing demand for housing and it was common practice for builders and labourers to bury broken pieces of asbestos materials on building sites which can now be exposed when digging, gardening or redeveloping properties or land.
Fibro was also commonly used in the 1950s and 1970s when building garages for the new family car; to build Dad’s shed and when adding extensions to existing brick or weatherboard homes such as family rooms while ‘weekenders’ were often built from fibro as low-cost holiday homes.
In rural regions many farm buildings were constructed from fibro as a cost-effective means of housing equipment and stock and it was also widely used to construct ‘sleep-out’ additions to farmhouses, workers accommodation and community housing throughout much of regional Australia.
If left undisturbed and well-maintained asbestos-containing products generally don’t pose a health risk. However, if these products are disturbed and fibres are released during a renovation, a knock-down-rebuild or the redevelopment of an old fibro home site, this is when health risks can occur.
Professor Nico van Zandwijk, Director of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute said, “There is growing evidence that suggests the current occurrences of asbestos-related diseases is as a result of exposure to asbestos fibres during DIY and renovations with more people, specifically women, diagnosed as a result of inhaling fibres in a non-occupational setting.
There is no cure for mesothelioma* , a cancer that can develop between 20-50 years after inhaling asbestos fibres and the average survival time after diagnosis is 10-12 months. Inhaling asbestos fibres can also cause lung cancer, asbestosis and benign pleural disease.
Does your home contain asbestos? How would you kNOw? Stop playing Renovation Roulette! Get to kNOw Asbestos this November by visiting asbestosawareness.com.au and take the 20 Point Safety Check. Learn to identify products that may contain asbestos in your home and property, where it might be found and learn how to manage it and dispose of it safely. It’s not worth the risk!
During NOvember Australians are encouraged to host a Blue Lamington Drive morning or afternoon tea at home or at work to help raise awareness of the current dangers of asbestos while raising vital funds for medical research and support services for sufferers of asbestos-related diseases.
- Get to kNOw asbestos this NOvember, visit asbestosawareness.com.au
- Register a Blue Lamington Drive morning or afternoon tea, visit www.bluelamington.com
- Make a donation to support research conducted by the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute.
FOR MORE INFORMATION & INTERVIEW REQUESTS PLEASE CONTACT
Insight Communications 02 9518 4744
Clare Collins 0414 821 957 [email protected]
Alice Collins 0414 686 091 [email protected]
Interview Opportunities Include:
Don Burke - Asbestos Awareness Month Ambassador
Peter Dunphy - Chair of the Asbestos Education Committee
Barry Robson - President Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia
Professor Nico van Zandwijk - Director, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute
Asbestos Awareness Ambassadors - Cherie Barber, Scott Cam, Barry Du Bois, John Jarratt and Scott McGregor.
Patient case studies and family members are also available.
* Full medical term: malignant mesothelioma
ASBESTOS AWARENESS MONTH - JOURNALIST NOTES
Does Your Home Contain Asbestos? How Would You kNOw?
Don’t Play Renovation Roulette! - Get to kNOw Asbestos this NOvember!
Take the 20 Point Asbestos Safety check! - Visit asbestosawanress.com.au - It’s not worth the risk!
20 Point Asbestos Safety Check
- At least 1 in 3 Australian homes contains asbestos including brick, weatherboard, fibro and clad homes.
- Asbestos was widely used in building materials before 1987 so if your home was built or renovated before 1987 it most likely contains asbestos in some form or another.
- If asbestos is disturbed during renovations or mainenance your health and the health of your family could be at risk.
- DIY is not recommended where asbestos is present.
- When renovating or working in and around homes, if in doubt assume asbestos materials are present and take every precaution.
- Dealing with asbestos is important and serious, but it’s not overwhelming – IT IS MANAGEABLE!
- If you’re not sure if asbestos is in your home you can have it inspected by a licenced removalist or a licensed asbestos assessor.
- Products made from asbestos cement include fibro sheeting (flat and corrugated), water, drainage and flue pipes, roofing shingles, guttering and floor and wall coverings. It could be anywhere!
- If you find asbestos in your home; Don’t cut it! Don’t drill it! Don’t drop it! Don’t sand it! Don’t saw it! Don’t scrape it! Don’t scrub it! Don’t dismantle it! Don’t tip it! Don’t waterblast it! Don’t demolish it! And whatever you do... Don’t dump it!”
- If left undisturbed asbestos materials in good, stable condition are unlikely to release dangerous fibres and pose a health risk. Generally, you don’t need to remove the asbestos. Paint it and leave it alone but remember to check it occasionally for any signs of wear and tear.
- There are legal requirements regarding asbestos management, its removal and disposal.
- While some might follow the regulations and safety requirements to remove small amounts of asbestos, the safest way to manage its removal is to retain a licenced professional asbestos removalist equipped to protect you and your family from the dangers of asbestos dust and fibres.
- Where asbestos fibres are friable (loose and not bonded into building materials), ONLY licenced friable asbestos removalists are allowed to remove it.
- Professional removal of asbestos is affordable. You can’t afford not to use a professional!
- The cost of asbestos removal by a licenced professional is comparable to most licenced tradesmen including electricians, plumbers and tilers.
- The cost of disposal at a lawful site is often included with the cost of removal by a licenced professional.
- If you must work with any material that may contain asbestos or remove asbestos yourself, protect yourself and your family and follow the legal and safety requirements for the management of asbestos to minimise the release of dust or small particles from the asbestos materials.
- There are a number of safety precautions needed including wearing specific protective clothing, the correct mask or breathing apparatus and ensure you minimise dust and dispose of asbestos legally.
- Never use tools on asbestos materials as they will make asbestos fibres airborne including:
- Power tools such as electric drills, angle grinders, circular saws and electric sanders.
- Never use high pressure water blasters or compressed air.
- Are you playing renovation roulette? Get to kNOw Asbestos this NOvember! Visit asbestosawareness.com.au Because it’s not worth the risk!
Get to kNOw why it’s important to manage asbestos safely in and around homes!
- There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres!
- If you don’t kNOw the hazards of working with asbestos materials including fibro and don’t observe safety precautions when removing or working with asbestos, you risk exposing yourself and families to long-term health risks.
- If asbestos is disturbed it can release dangerous fine particles of dust containing asbestos fibres.
- Breathing in dust containing asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma
- Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer which most often occurs in the lining of the lung.
- Symptoms of mesothelioma don’t usually appear for 20 to 50 years following first exposure to asbestos fibres.
- The average survival time after diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is 10-12 months.
- The rates of malignant mesothelioma are expected to rise in the coming years.
- The risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases increases with the intensity of asbestos fibre exposure.
- The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibres is greatly increased for smokers.
- Fact sheets about asbestos and health risks can be found at www.asbestosawareness.com.au
Get to kNOw asbestos materials
- In Australia, a complete ban of asbestos and its products became effective in 2003.
- Most people can't tell whether building materials contain asbestos just by looking at them.
- Only scientific testing of a sample of material by an accredited National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) asbestos testing laboratory can confirm the presence of asbestos. For information on testing and accredited laboratories in your area, visit www.nata.asn.au or call (03) 9274 8200.
Asbestos building materials is described as either "non-friable" or "friable".
- Friable asbestos is any material containing asbestos and is in the form of a powder or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry.
Friable asbestos was mainly used in industrial applications.
- Non-Friable asbestos is any material (other than friable asbestos) that contains asbestos. Non- friable asbestos cannot be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry.
Common uses for non-friable asbestos in buildings include: flat (fibro), corrugated or compressed asbestos cement sheets; water, drainage and flue pipes; and floor tiles.
Get to kNOw about Loose-fill asbestos found in homes in NSW and the ACT
Loose-fill asbestos was sold as ceiling insulation In the 1960s and 1970s, for residential and commercial premises mainly by one company trading in the ACT as Mr Fluffy. Most properties impacted are located in the ACT, a small number of properties in NSW have also been identified as containing this type of insulation.
For more information on affected councils please visit www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.
Get to kNOw where asbestos might be in homes?
Australians may unknowingly put their health and the health of families, children, and neighbours at risk because they don’t kNOw the dangers of asbestos or where it might be found in and around homes.
Products made from bonded asbestos cement that may have been used in your home include:
- Fibro sheeting (flat and corrugated) which may have been used in internal walls and ceilings, external walls and cladding, infill panels in windows and doors, eves, fencing, carports, backyard sheds and dog kennels, electrical switchboards, sheeting under floor tiles, bathroom walls, backing to floor tiles and sheet vinyl, carpet underlay, and the backing behind the ceramic wall tiles and textile seals to the oven.
- Water drainage and flue pipes.
- Roofing shingles and guttering.
- In some homes, loose-fill asbestos was used in ceiling space as insulation. Please see details under ‘Loose-fill asbestos in homes in NSW and the ACT’.
IMPORTANT: If fire, hail, or water blasting damages non-friable asbestos, it may become friable asbestos material and must be managed and removed by a licenced Friable Asbestos Removalist.
Refer to websites where the community can access vital information about managing asbestos safely.
- Visit www.asbestosawareness.com.au to find out where you might find asbestos in the home and how to manage it safely.
- Visit www.workcover.nsw.gov.au to find out about regulations.
- Visit www.adri.org.au to find out more about research into asbestos diseases.
- Visit www.environment.nsw.gov.au to find out about the safe disposal of asbestos.
- Visit www.asbestossafety.gov.au for information
Get to kNOw the dangers of asbestos and DIY!
Asbestos exposure has been linked to DIY renovating! In the past Australians diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma has primarily been men exposed to asbestos through work-related exposure. Today there is a growing body of evidence that more people including women are being diagnosed through non-occupational exposure including during home renovations.
If asbestos is disturbed during renovations or in the demolition of homes containing asbestos, fibres can be released into the air and be inhaled. Inhaled fibres increase the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma or lung cancer.
A study (MJA in press) by Professor Anthony Johnson et al into ‘The prevalence of self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation in NSW residents’ showed:
- 60.5% of do it yourself (DIY) renovators reported being exposed to asbestos during home renovations.
- 53% reported their partner and 40% reported their children were also exposed to asbestos during home DIY home renovations.
- Non DIY renovators were less likely to be exposed or have their families exposed.
- 58% of DIY renovators cut AC Fibro Sheeting – this was the most common activity resulting in asbestos exposure.
- 37% of DIY renovators reported using a power tool to cut asbestos products.
- Thus asbestos exposure is common during home renovations.
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry’s 2014 Report shows that of the 350 people diagnosed with mesothelioma where there is information about asbestos exposure, 137 (39.14%) were classified as non-occupational exposure. Of these 37.2% were home renovators and of those 33% were women.
Get to kNOw which occupations may come in contact with asbestos in their work
Trades - Carpenters, joiners, builders, bricklayers, painters and tillers, electricians, electricity industry supply workers, building maintenance workers, building construction and civil construction workers, plumbers, roofers, boilermakers, welders, metal and mechanical trades including fitters, turners, machinists, telecommunications technicians, landscapers, automotive repair workers, demolition workers, emergency services workers and their volunteers, landfill operators, waste disposal facility workers, ship and boat builders, marine engineers, waterside workers.
Get to kNOw the legal requirements in your state and territory when working with asbestos!
Regulations about asbestos management may vary in each Australian state and territory so homeowners and renovators can visit asbestosawareness.com.au for information on asbestos management that are relevant to their home state.
- Asbestos Awareness Month Campaign www.asbestosawareness.com.au
- Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency www.asbestossafety.gov.au
Australian Capital Territory
- Asbestos ACT www.asbestos.act.gov.au
- ACT Asbestos Taskforce www.act.gov.au/asbestos-response-taskforce
New South Wales
- Asbestos Disposal www.epa.nsw.gov.au/waste/asbestos/index.htm
- SafeWork NSW Asbestos and Demolition Licence Holder Search Facility
- Asbestos - A guide for householders and the general public.
- Asbestos Management www.health.nt.gov.au/Environmental_Health/Asbestos_Management
- Asbestos Queensland www.deir.qld.gov.au/asbestos/
- Asbestos Occupational Health and Safety www.safework.sa.gov.au
- Asbestos Tasmania www.asbestos.tas.gov.au/
- Asbestos Management & Removal in the Home www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/forms-and-publications/forms-and-publications/management-and-disposal-of-asbestos
- Asbestos Disposal www.epa.vic.gov.au/your-environment/waste/asbestos
- Asbestos Occupational Health and Safety
- Asbestos in the Home www.public.health.wa.gov.au/3/1143/2/asbestos_in_the_home.pm
- Asbestos in the Workplace http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/asbestos-information-asbestos-workplace
Regulations in NSW (example)
In NSW, the Government has regulations in force to protect you, your family, the environment and the community when you are working with asbestos. Legal requirements relating to asbestos include:
- It is illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in domestic garbage bins.
- It is illegal to re-use or recycle asbestos products.
- It is illegal to dump asbestos products.
- Power tools should not be used unless the dust is captured or supressed.
- It is illegal to waterblast asbestos cement sheets (fibro).
- Only licenced asbestos removalists can remove asbestos of 10 square metres or more.
- Only licenced Friable Asbestos Removalists are able to handle or remove friable asbestos.
- Licenced removalists are to notify SafeWork NSW of asbestos removal 5 days before removing friable or greater than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos.
- All licenced contractors have to be able to give you a copy of their licence, you should ask to see their licence when hiring an asbestos removalist to ensure they have a current licence.
- 10 square metres is equivalent to the size of a typical bedroom wall in an average home or about the size of a small bathroom or an outside toilet or shed.
- All licenced contractors must be able to give you a copy of their current licence - ask to see their licence when hiring an asbestos removalist.
- All asbestos removal is to be in accordance with the Code of Practice How to safely remove asbestos. It is illegal to bury asbestos on your own property.
- All asbestos must be legally disposed of at a lawful landfill site. Not every landfill site in NSW is authorised to accept asbestos. To find a site near you visit: www.environment.nsw.gov.au.
- Your council may also have policies regarding the removal of asbestos so visit your council’s website to find out what’s required.
- To learn more information about working safely with asbestos and links to councils, SafeWork NSW and EPA please visit asbestosawareness.com.au.
Visit SafeWork NSW for information and regulations regarding management, handling, training and licencing for asbestos removal: workcover.nsw.gov.au. Visit the Environment Protection Authority for a brochure ‘Safely disposing of asbestos waste from your home’ which contains information for home renovators and builders on the safe handling, storage, transport and disposal of asbestos waste: environment.nsw.gov.au.
Get to kNOw if it is safe to remove asbestos yourself?
If you must remove it yourself, you MUST take precautions! Removing asbestos can be a dangerous and complicated process. We recommend using licenced professional removalists who will also dispose of it in accordance with NSW Government regulations.
However, if you are thinking about removing even a small amount of asbestos yourself, at the very minimum you should meticulously follow ALL of the steps listed at asbestosawareness.com.au in order to protect your health and the health of those around you including children.
The important point is this: if you need to work with materials that may contain asbestos, you must work so there is a minimal release of fibres, dust or small particles from the asbestos materials. It is recommended that if you are considering removing or working with asbestos yourself, you undertake a training course to ensure you have the training to do it safely. A list of asbestos removal registered training organisations can be found via asbestosawareness.com.au.
IMPORTANT: If the asbestos is in powder form or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry, it must be removed by an asbestos removal contractor with a friable asbestos licence.
Get to kNOw about asbestos waste disposal
- Asbestos waste can only be disposed of at specific landfills.
- To arrange to dispose of asbestos, you must first contact your local council to locate your nearest licenced waste landfill site.
- Ensure asbestos waste has been wetted, wrapped in 200um thick plastic, and sealed with tape before it is transported to a landfill site that may lawfully receive the waste.
- It must be clearly labelled as "asbestos waste".
- It must be transported in a covered, leak-proof vehicle.
- It is wise to keep copies of receipts from landfills where asbestos was taken as councils or the Environment Protection Authority may require you to produce these receipts as proof of proper disposal.
ASBESTOS EDUCATION COMMITTEE - ASBESTOS AWARENESS MONTH (NOVEMBER)
The Asbestos Awareness Month campaign is overseen by the ACTU, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, SafeWork NSW and James Hardie and supported by the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute. Funding for this campaign was provided by James Hardie Industries SE, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, the Environment Protection Authority and the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities.
In 2011, the Asbestos Education Committee (AEC) in partnership with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) conducted a NSW based campaign to educate homeowners about the dangers of asbestos when renovating or maintaining homes. Following the success of the NSW Asbestos Awareness Campaign, the AEC and ADRI launched a national campaign, Asbestos Awareness Week 2012. In 2013, the AEC and ADRI launched a national Asbestos Awareness Month. In 2015 the aim is to grow the campaign to reach as many Australians as possible including homeowners, renovators, tradesmen and handymen.
Asbestos-Related Disease Statistics
The number of new malignant mesothelioma cases provides a measure of asbestos exposure among the Australian population.. This is because there is a strong causal association between asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma. A total of 11,667 people were newly diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in Australia between 1982 and 2009, with men making up 85% of all cases. Since 2003, approximately 600 cases of newly diagnosed malignant mesothelioma cases have been reported each year.
Mesothelioma is a cancer arising from the lining (mesothelium) of the thoracic and abdominal cavities. The disease is usually advanced before symptoms appear, making an early diagnosis and effective treatment very difficult. The average survival time after diagnosis is only 10-12 months. A small exposure to asbestos can be enough to trigger the cancer, however a relatively small percentage of people exposed to asbestos fibres will eventually develop mesothelioma. There usually is a lag of 20-50 years after the first asbestos exposure before the disease is diagnosed.
Inflammation of the outer lining of the lung, the pleura (where asbestos fibres are deposited). The pleura stiffens and thickens widely (diffuse thickening) or in patches (plaques), and can fill with fluid.
This is scarring of the lungs by inhalation of large quantities of asbestos fibres: the lung becomes inflamed and scarred (stiff) making breathing progressively difficult. Symptoms include tightness in the chest, dry cough, and in the later stages, a bluish tinge to the skin caused by lack of oxygen. Asbestosis is usually seen in former asbestos miners, asbestos manufacturing workers and insulation workers, and usually takes a decade or more to develop.
Exposure to asbestos fibres greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer in people who smoke.
Park EK, Hyland R, Yates D, Thomas PS, Johnson A. Asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales. Medical Journal Australasia, September 2013; 199 (6): 410-413. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/6/asbestos-exposure-during-home-renovation-new-south-wales
Olsen NJ, Franklin PJ, Reid A, de Klerk NH, Threlfall TJ, Shilkin K, Musk B, 5-Sept-2011, “Increasing incidence of malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos during home maintenance and renovation”, Medical Journal of Australia, 195 (5): 271-274.
Park EK, Hyland R, Yates D, Thomas PS, Johnson A. Prevalence of self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation in NSW residents. Respirology Supplement 1, Poster 143. March 2010.
Australian Mesothelioma Registry Reports 2012, 2013 & 2014 www.mesothelioma-australia.com/publications
Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, July 2013 http://asbestosresearch.org.au/?page_id=2794
ASBESTOS DISEASES RESEARCH INSTITUTE
As a response to the increasing incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Australia, the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI), located in the Bernie Banton Centre, Concord NSW was opened by the then Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd in January 2009. ADRI was established by the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation (a charitable not-for-profit organisation) dedicated to preventing asbestos related diseases.
The ADRI’s primary objectives are to: Improve the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related disease and at the same time to contribute to more effective measures to prevent exposure to asbestos. With the establishment of the ADRI, as the first stand-alone research institute in the world dedicated to tackling this silent and still increasing epidemic, Australia has taken a vital step forward in the international fight against asbestos-related diseases.
Malignant mesothelioma (MM) almost uniquely caused by asbestos exposure was seldom diagnosed until the 1960’s. Since 2003 approximately 600 Australians were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year and experts have estimated that there were at least another 1,350 Australians with lung cancer caused by asbestos. A tragic consequence of highly intensive use of asbestos and its products in Australia in the previous century, it is estimated that these figures will continue to rise in the coming decades.
MM is a disease that develops several years after the first exposure to asbestos fibres. However, the disease is currently also diagnosed in young adults incidentally exposed to asbestos fibres as children. The fact that approximately 1/3 of older Australian homes built or renovated before the mid 1980’s contain asbestos, reinforces the significance of Australians undertaking adequate preventive measures.
The prognosis of MM patients is poor and almost all will experience severely debilitating symptoms. MM is only partially responding to the current forms of oncologic therapy and currently there is no curative treatment for the disease. It is therefore critical that we make a substantial investment in medical research to find better means of understanding the specific biology of MM in order to try to achieve better clinical outcomes for people affected by the disease.
Why invest in research in Malignant Mesothelioma (MM)
When compared to other frequently diagnosed cancers such as breast cancer and melanoma, MM has been under-studied. However, outcomes of research conducted into MM provide excellent opportunities for insights into cancer that can be widely applied. For example:
- The carcinogen is known: For most solid human malignancies, the actual carcinogen is not known (even for cigarette smoke where multiple carcinogens have been implicated). The single dominant carcinogen for the development of MM is asbestos. Therefore, its role can be followed in studies ranging from the laboratory to epidemiological studies.
- At-risk cohorts can be identified and followed: One of the keys to studying populations at risk of cancer is to be able to identify those at highest risk. Because individuals who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos are at (high) risk of developing MM (e.g., occupational exposure), these individuals can be followed prospectively over decades in screening/biomarker studies.
- High quality animal models exist: Animal models of MM pathogenesis and treatment can be studied and translated into novel therapies for MM patients.
- Novel treatments are desperately needed: The options for current standard treatment are limited and new agents can be investigated relatively easily.
- ADRI researchers have identified a novel treatment approach for malignant mesothelioma and significant investments are needed to fast track further development in the clinic.
- Common responsibility: MM as a man-made disease that not only asks for responsibility from employers and legislators, but also from Australian society that as a whole, has permitted intensive asbestos use in the past.
ASBESTOS DISEASES FOUNDATION OF AUSTRALIA (ADFA)
The Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) is a not-for profit organisation working to provide support to people living with asbestos related diseases, family members, carers and friends.
ADFA is a community based group founded by Trade Unions, victims, families of victims, and concerned citizens to meet the needs of people affected by asbestos related disease and has a long history of being engaged in advocacy work within the Australian community.
Clare Collins or Alice CollinsP: 02 9518 4744