Australia’s asbestos disease rate continues to outstrip world

Latest figures reveal Australia’s rate of asbestos-induced mesothelioma continues to outstrip the rest of the world.

Reaffirming the importance of asbestos removal training, the Safe Work Australia (SWA) report reveals an incidence rate of a 2.2 per 100,000 person-years, compared with the global average of 1.2.

The Mesothelioma in Australia: Incidence (1982 to 2013) and Mortality (1997 to 2012) report, released in May 2015, is based on statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR).

The AMR figures reveal the incidence rate for Victoria and NSW in 2013 was 1.8, but in WA it was 3.9. Age at diagnosis ranged from 27-96, but most people were aged 70-84. Men were more likely to be diagnosed in their 70s, while the incidence for women was more evenly spread across age groups.

About 60% of people who participated in research had possible or probable exposure through work, the report says.

The highest incidence was for tradespeople, particularly those in construction and the metal and mechanical trades.

So what is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer that typically occurs 20 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos, although exposure does not always result in the disease, the SWA report reveals.

Mesothelioma of the pleura (a cancer affecting the protective lining of the lungs and chest cavity) is the most common form of mesothelioma in Australia and has accounted for approximately 93% of cases since 1982.

Mesothelioma of the peritoneum (a cancer affecting the abdominal lining) is less common and has accounted for approximately 6% of cases since 1982. The figures in the SWA report included all forms of mesothelioma.

History in Australia
In Australia, more chrysotile (white asbestos) than amphibole (blue and brown) asbestos was mined until 1939, the SWA report reveals. New South Wales, the first jurisdiction to mine asbestos, produced the largest amount of chrysotile until 1983, as well as smaller quantities of amphibole until 1949.

With the commencement of mining in Wittenoom in Western Australia in 1937, crocidolite (blue asbestos) dominated production until the closure of the mine in 1966. The main sources of raw asbestos imports were from Canada (chrysotile) and South Africa (crocidolite and amosite—brown asbestos). Consumption peaked around 1975 at approximately 70 000 tonnes per year.

In addition to imports of asbestos fibre, Australia also imported many manufactured asbestos products, including asbestos-containing cement articles, yarn, cord and fabric, joint and millboard, friction materials and gaskets. The main sources of supply were the United Kingdom (UK), the United States of America (USA), the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan.

With the closure of the crocidolite mine at Wittenoom, Australian asbestos production and exports declined. Imports of chrysotile also started to decline. Over 60% of all production and 90% of all consumption of asbestos in Australia occurred in the asbestos cement manufacturing industry, the SWA report confirms.

From around 1940 to the late 1960s, all three types of asbestos were used in this industry. The use of crocidolite began to be phased out from 1967, while amosite was used until the mid-1980s. Much of the industry output remains today in the form of “fibro” houses and water and sewerage piping.

By 1954, Australia was fourth in the western world in gross consumption of asbestos cement products, after the USA, UK and France, and first on a per capita basis. After World War II to 1954, 70 000 asbestos cement houses were built in New South Wales (52% of all houses built in Australia). In the past, exposure to asbestos was very high in some industries and occupations. It was as high as 150 fibres per millilitre of air (f/ml) in asbestos pulverisors and disintegrators in the asbestos cement industry and up to 600 f/ml among baggers at Wittenoom.

Regulation introduced in ‘70s
The use of asbestos products has been regulated in Australia since the late 1970s. A series of regulations adopted in the late 1970s and early 1980s by various jurisdictions imposed exposure limits of 0.1 f/ml for crocidolite and amosite and 0.1–1.0 f/ml for chrysotile.

In July 2003, a revised national exposure standard for chrysotile asbestos of 0.1 f/ml was declared by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. The prohibition of all forms of asbestos was adopted simultaneously under regulations in each Australian jurisdiction and by Australian Customs on 31 December 2003.

The prohibition bans the use of asbestos, but does not require the removal of asbestos products that were in place as at 31 December 2003. Therefore, some asbestos products are still present and need regulation to ensure their management or removal does not result in asbestos exposure.

Small decline since 2011 peak

In 2011, 690 new cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed in Australia. The preliminary number of diagnoses for 2013 is 575. The number of new mesothelioma cases has increased in most years since 1982, when national data first became available, and peaked at 690 in 2011.

The age-standardised incidence rate of mesothelioma increased from 1.1 new cases per 100 000 population in 1983 to a peak of 3.2 in 2010.

The rate fell to 2.8 new cases per 100 000 population in 2011. In 2011, the highest age-specific incidence rate of new mesothelioma cases occurred among males aged 85 years and above (49.9 cases per 100 000 population aged 85 years and above).

Deaths due to mesothelioma.

In 2012, 638 deaths were attributed to mesothelioma. The number of deaths resulting from mesothelioma increased between 1997 and 2012 and reached a peak of 638 in 2012.

In 2012, the age-standardised mortality rate for mesothelioma was 2.5 deaths per 100 000 population. The age-standardised mortality rate remained relatively stable over the 16 years for which data are available and ranged between a minimum of 2.1 deaths per 100 000 population in 1999 and a maximum of 2.7 in 2001.

The model work health and safety laws adopted by the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania provide a consistent framework for the minimisation of asbestos exposure, the removal of asbestos and the management of remaining asbestos materials in workplaces.

What resources are available to deal with asbestos?
A national model code of practice, How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace, is available on the Safe Work Australia website to provide businesses with practical guidance on how to manage risks associated with asbestos and asbestos-containing material in the workplace.

The Commonwealth Government established the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) to focus on asbestos-related issues at a national level. Along with developing a national strategic plan aimed at preventing asbestos exposure and eradicating asbestos-related diseases in Australia, the ASEA also undertakes research and awareness activities, including an examination of current disposal infrastructure and a study of community awareness and attitudes to asbestos.

For more details on AlertForce asbestos awareness training assessment and removal courses, go to www.alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/

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    Sold out

  • May 6th

    Traffic Controller

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $227

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 6th - May 7th

    TC + ITCP

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $497

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 7th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 7th

    Implement Traffic Control Plan

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 8th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 11th - May 12th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $447

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 13th

    Traffic Controller

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $227

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 13th - May 14th

    TC + ITCP

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $497

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 14th

    Implement Traffic Control Plan

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 18th - May 19th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $447

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 20th - May 21st

    TC + ITCP

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $497

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 20th

    Traffic Controller

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $227

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 21st

    Implement Traffic Control Plan

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 25th - May 26th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Sydney (Arncliffe)

    $447

    Book now

    Sold out

  • May 25th - May 26th

    CPCCBC5014A Conduct Asbestos Assessment

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $997

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jun 1st

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Melbourne

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jun 2nd

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Melbourne

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jun 4th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jun 5th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jun 29th - Jun 30th

    CPCCBC5014A Conduct Asbestos Assessment

    Brisbane

    $997

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jul 2nd

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jul 3rd

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jul 6th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Jul 7th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Aug 3rd

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Aug 4th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Aug 6th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Aug 7th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Sep 3rd

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Sep 4th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Sep 7th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Sep 8th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Oct 1st

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Oct 2nd

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Oct 5th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Oct 6th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Nov 2nd

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Nov 3rd

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Nov 5th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Nov 6th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Dec 3rd

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Dec 4th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Brisbane (Brendale)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Dec 7th

    CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $297

    Book now

    Sold out

  • Dec 8th

    CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

    Melbourne (Derrimut)

    $347

    Book now

    Sold out

  • No scheduled courses - please call us to discuss your requirements

Latest OHS news

Ep 32 Special Counsel Jeremy Kennedy explains how new NSW legislation wipes ability to insure

Read more

Ep 31 Sarah-Jane Dunford juggling 3-4 health and safety businesses incl Hunter Safety Awards

Wow Sarah-Jane is dynamic and fast moving. At 40, she's very busy running Riskology Consulting, the Hunter Safety Awards, a new software project as well as the local branch of the Australian Instit...

Read more

Ep 30 Steve McLeod, Fire and Safety Australia / NSCA owner, explains how he did it!

Read more

Ep 29 Kate Smolenska Bulletproof performance is helping workplaces do just that

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Testimonials

“In over 20 years of training, this was one of the best courses I’ve ever attended.”

Queensland Rail

“Great! The instructor made it interesting and enjoyable”

Leighton Contractors

” We heard that AlertForce delivers one of the best courses around so the boss decided to send me to Australia from New Zealand.”

Participant Public Course

“I liked the trainer’s positive outlook and uplifting approach towards completing the long day.”

Visionstream

“Very competent training course. Trainer was very knowledgeable on subject.”

Servicestream

“AlertForce provided an excellent trainer,  knowledgeable on the topic and allowed for active questioning.”

DHS

“Informative and concise training delivered at the right pace.”

AFMA.gov.au

“The Trainer was very engaging”

Fair Work Commission

“Interesting, informative, relevant.”

Airservices Australia

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