Asbestos health costs hit billions globally

Every dollar spent on the use of asbestos costs the global economy almost four dollars in health costs of asbestos-related disease, new data shows.

The research will be presented at the Asia-Pacific Cancer Leaders’ Summit APOCP 8th General Assembly this week, hosted by Cancer Council Queensland in Brisbane.

The study authors have called for a global ban on asbestos production and use, highlighting the costs and dangers.


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While new use of the hazardous material is totally banned in 57 countries worldwide, including Australia, many countries are still progressing towards eradication of asbestos from existing infrastructure and in many jurisdictions it is not yet banned.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said global cooperation was key to eliminating asbestos-related death and disease. “Exposure to asbestos significantly increases a person’s risks of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen,” Ms Clift said. “Less than half of all Queenslanders diagnosed with mesothelioma will survive more than a year after diagnosis.

“Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world – in Queensland alone, cases have risen from 17 each year in the early 1980s to 135 each year in 2013.

“We know that asbestos miners, transport workers, builders, plumbers, electricians and mechanics may be exposed to asbestos in their workplace. Queenslanders who haven’t worked directly with asbestos but have been exposed to it can also develop mesothelioma, including people washing or cleaning work clothes with asbestos fibres on them or people renovating homes.

“It can take many years after being exposed to asbestos for mesothelioma to develop. This is called the latency period or latent interval, and is usually between 20 and 60 years.

“The findings of this research highlight the annual total economic burden of asbestos, and seek to inform decision makers in developing countries of the dangers, where usage is increasing. World cancer leaders will come together this week to agree on an action agenda for helping to eradicate mesothelioma and other occupational and environmental cancers.”

Cancer Council says the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma are often vague and can be similar to other conditions or diseases. “Shortness of breath, sharp pains in the chest or a dull pain in the shoulder and upper arm, a persistent cough or a change in a coughing pattern can be symptoms of the cancer. If Queenslanders are concerned about their risk, especially if they think they have been exposed to asbestos, they should see their GP for advice.”

Queenslanders should visit worksafe.qld.gov.au for information on asbestos removal and carrying out asbestos-related work.

 

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