Asbestos remains a global health threat, with over two million tonnes produced in 2008. Developing countries are mining and importing asbestos for domestic use, according to an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Professor Peter Sly, Deputy Director of the Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute at the University of Queensland, and co-authors are calling for action to support the latest international effort to ban the mining and manufacturing of all forms of asbestos; to increase effective education of the dangers of asbestos; and to urge our legislators to increase their efforts to rid the world of asbestos-related disease.
AdvertisementProf Sly said that asbestos exposure comes from two main sources: residual-asbestos containing materials remaining in buildings constructed before the mid-1980s, and continuing mining and use of asbestos in some parts of the world.
"In Australia, the legacy of asbestos remains a problem. In most cases, asbestos is in a non-respirable form and is not a hazard to human health if undisturbed. However, if damaged, it can become friable and change to a respirable form," Prof Sly said.
"Asbestos will be with us for decades, so targeted and contextually appropriate education programs for at-risk populations are required.
"As most of the people who will die of asbestos-related cancers already have asbestos in their lungs, research aimed at preventing or curing these cancers is also vital.
"Developing countries, especially in Asia and Eastern Europe, are mining or importing asbestos for domestic use, and now account for the majority of the world's exposure to asbestos.
"Thousands, if not millions, of people are likely to die in these countries as a result of continued asbestos exposure," Prof Sly said.
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.