By now, we all know that asbestos is a dangerous, deadly substance. And we can all rest a bit easier knowing that asbestos is now a banned substance. But what about all the asbestos already built into older homes?
Unfortunately, if your house was built before 1990, there is a good chance it contains asbestos in some form. We detailed in an earlier post where you might be likely to find asbestos in your home on the Central Coast.
But today, we wanted to cover a grizzly, albeit serious topic: the big three asbestos-related diseases.
Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause a raft of serious, long-term, and life-threatening health conditions. But the big three are mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Mesothelioma is a form of malignant cancer uniquely related to the inhalation of asbestos fibres. The tumours from mesothelioma grow on the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart. It has a very high mortality rate. The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is approximately 12 months after diagnosis.
Asbestosis is chronic inflammation and scarring of the lungs caused by breathing in asbestos fibres. It presents as shortness of breath, a cough, and chest pain and can lead to other serious lung complications, including cancer. Asbestosis is extremely common in people who have worked around asbestosis. While it’s not necessarily deadly, the condition will be worse the longer you are exposed and the more fibres you breathe in.
The behaviour that puts you most at risk of developing lung cancer is smoking. However, inhaling asbestos fibres dramatically increases your risk of developing lung cancer – along with many other cancers. There is a close connection between lung cancer and asbestosis. Around 50% of people who die from asbestosis are found to have lung cancer postmortem.
The tragic consequences of asbestos inhalation were revealed to the public after courageous public campaigns by advocates such as Bernie Banton. Nowadays, we all know the risks associated with asbestos and no longer use materials containing it. Advocacy and support groups are available to victims and their families. And, asbestos removal regulations are in place to protect our community. We are all safer because of these changes.
In New South Wales, you are legally allowed to remove 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos yourself. But just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean you should risk it. Asbestos exposure increases the likelihood of developing a range of cancers and chronic conditions. If the asbestos area is more than 10 square metres it MUST be removed by a professional. If you’re not sure whether you have asbestos in your home or not get in touch or drop off a sample.