Asbestos has been called the silent killer, and with good reason. A shocking amount of people have had their health compromised by exposure to this menacing fiber, and these numbers are only expected to increase.

With an eye to keeping you and your employees safe at work, and revealing the shocking scale of asbestos exposure in Australia, we've put together six mind-boggling asbestos facts.

1. Australia has one of the highest mesothelioma death rates in the world

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is thought to be caused mainly by exposure to asbestos. Shockingly, here in Australia we have the second highest death rate in the world behind only the UK – according to the Mesothelioma Centre, 10,000 people have died from the disease since the early 1980s.

Asbestos is a dangerous material that can be hard to spot.
Asbestos is a dangerous material that can be hard to spot.

The most recent statistics also show that 641 people died from mesothelioma in 2014 alone. These tragic facts show that the threat is very real here in Australia, and that knowing how to handle asbestos is essential for those working in at-risk professions, such as electricians, builders and plumbers.

2. In most mesothelioma cases there was exposure to asbestos

While it was never really in doubt, these statistics from the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health prove that mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. Their data says that 88 per cent of mesothelioma cases reported exposure to asbestos at some point in their lives.

What's also worrying is that most cases seem to come from Australia's two most populous states – NSW and Victoria. There's not a shadow of a doubt that asbestos is dangerous, so it's essential to take steps to make sure you, your employees, and your colleagues are always safe.

3. Deaths are expected to increase

Sadly we haven't even seen the beginning of the shocking affects that asbestos exposure is going to have on Australia's public. The Mesothelioma Centre reports that deaths are expected to number around 25,000 from the illness over the next four decades.

That's 2.5 times the estimated deaths since 1980, and shows in some cases symptoms can be delayed by years or even decades.

4. 50 per cent of asbestos claims are against one company

Perhaps the most frightening of all asbestos facts is that it's estimated to be present in one of three Australian homes.

According to specialist law firm Henry Carus Associates, almost half of asbestos-related claims in Australia's history have been leveled at one organisation – James Hardie, an Australian building materials company.

This firm discovered asbestos early on and rose to become Australia's largest producer of the material. They owned mines throughout Australia and Zimbabwe to source raw products, and sold it to construction companies to install in thousands of buildings in Australia.

After court proceedings, the company has been mandated to pay 35 per cent of its operating income to ex-employees and claimants and expect to lose over $1.8 billion in the next 30 years.

If anything, this is a cautionary tale of the importance of protecting your employees as well as the potential ramifications of not doing so.

5. One in three homes contains asbestos

Perhaps the most frightening of all asbestos facts is that it's estimated to be present in one of three Australian homes. This means it could be in the walls of your home, or in one of the rental properties you own.

Correct work health and safety practices are essential in reducing the risks of asbestos exposure.
Correct work health and safety practices are essential in reducing the risks of asbestos exposure.

It's usually not dangerous if left untouched but it's essential that you ensure you take the necessary care if you do happen to disturb it. Make sure that any builders, electricians and other labourers that you hire know what they're doing before allowing them to work on your home as your safety could be at stake.

6. Most exposures occur in the workplace

It's not surprising that most exposures to asbestos occur in the workplace. We're not talking about office workers, but labourers who often disturb the structure of properties where asbestos may be hiding.

The Mesothelioma Centre describes the following professions as high risk – it's essential to ensure that you and your colleagues have had proper training in asbestos identification and handling if you are listed below:

  • Construction.
  • Carpentry.
  • Plumbing.
  • Electrical engineering.
  • Insulation workers.
  • Shipbuilding.

If you or your employees are not fully trained, the consequences could be dire. Keep yourself, your employees and your business safe by signing up to an Alertforce Asbestos removal course today.

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