August 15, 2014

Lung Foundation helps educate people about asbestos danger

Lung Foundation Australia joined with the Asbestos and Safety Eradication Agency (ASEA) to help inform Tasmanians about the risks asbestos can pose to their lungs at a special workshop in Hobart on Thursday.

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said Australia had one of the highest rates of malignant mesothelioma, a common asbestos-related disease, in the world with numbers expected to rise between now and 2020.

“Asbestos was most commonly found in some building materials such as cement, guttering and wall sheeting, particularly in homes built before 1990,” she said.

“Unfortunately, asbestos is a highly toxic, insidious, and environmentally persistent material that has affected thousands of Australians, and is likely to affect thousands more this century.

“It can take 20 to 40 years for mesothelioma to develop after exposure although not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops disease.

“This national program will raise awareness of potential asbestos risks and provide relevant links to available local, state and national asbestos-related resources.”

Mrs Allan said the Lung Foundation was also working to inform and educate health professionals about best practice in the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related lung disease and quality care for those affected by asbestos-related lung disease.

Tasmania Senator Lisa Singh welcomed the initiative which included sessions for health professionals, patients and carers.

“Australia was one of the biggest users of asbestos in the world,” Senator Singh said.

“We’re a nation of home renovators and it’s strongly recommended anybody undertaking ‘do it yourself’ renovations, or other building work around the house, should ensure you and your families are not at risk of exposure to asbestos,” she said.

“Both ASEA and the Lung Foundation recognise that within each state there are already high-quality asbestos-related disease resources available as well as highly motivated and effective support programs and networks.”


Background Information:

Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. This is due to Australia’s history of high rates of usage and mining of asbestos (a naturally-occurring mineral silicate utilised in commercial building and manufacturing).

Mesothelioma is a cancer typically related to exposure to asbestos that affects the mesothelium, a thin tissue membrane that covers internal organs of the body including the thoracic cavity (pleura), the heart sac (pericardium) and the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). The mesothelium supports and protects the body’s organs and cavities while also providing a source of lubrication that helps the organs move and function.

While mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose, research shows that more than 90% of reported mesothelioma cases occur in the pleura (the lining of the lungs), and is called Pleural Mesothelioma, which is caused primarily by the inhalation of asbestos fibres into the lungs.

The session at the Royal Hobart Hospital is part of a twelve month national campaign starting in August, 2014 which will see Lung Foundation Australia partner with the new national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) to conduct workshops in each capital city and one regional location in each state and territory across Australia.

Each event will consist of a:

  • six hour workshop for health professionals;
  • one hour evening session for General Practitioners (GPs) and practice nurses; and
  • one hour session for the community.

Asbestos related lung diseases can take many years to develop, in some cases 20 to 40 years after exposure. It is however important to note that exposure to asbestos fibres does not always result in an asbestos related disease.

There are many areas in the home where asbestos-containing materials can be found including (but not limited to):

  • roof sheeting and capping
  • guttering
  • gables, eaves/soffitswater pipes and flues
  • wall sheeting (flat or a weatherboard style)
  • vinyl sheet flooring
  • carpet and tile underlays
  • zelemite backing boards to the switchboards
  • flexible building boards
  • imitation brick cladding
  • fencing
  • carports and sheds
  • waterproof membrane
  • telecommunications pits
  • some window putty
  • expansion joints
  • packing under beams
  • concrete formwork

For more information about asbestos and asbestos-related disease, please visit