By Nicholas Hartman
Almost 700 people died from asbestos-related cancers in Australia in 2018, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed this week.
These deaths from mesothelioma, a cancer usually associated with asbestos exposure, come despite the building material being banned 15 years ago.
This strain of cancer develops in the mesothelium, which is a protective lining on the inside of body cavities and the outside of organs.
The youngest person diagnosed with the disease was 22, while the oldest was 101.
Institute spokesman Justin Harvey said that many Australians are still being diagnosed with the disease despite the decade-long ban on asbestos.
“Due to its aggressive nature, most cases of mesothelioma have a poor prognosis,” Harvey said.
Data released by the Institute reveal that there were 699 deaths from and 662 diagnoses of mesothelioma last year. The number of deaths may rise further if the Australian Mesothelioma Registry is notified of more deaths from the disease.
Set up in 2010, the Registry monitors all new cases of mesothelioma, collects information about asbestos exposure from sufferers of mesothelioma, and maintains a database of information about the disease and the people affected by it in Australia.
Between 2015 and 2018, New South Wales had the most people diagnosed (923), followed by Victoria (642) and Queensland (586).
Meanwhile, Western Australia’s rate of infection per person is well above the national average.
The Registry says that the average mesothelioma sufferer is male, exposed to the asbestos at work and in non-work settings, and is diagnosed at 75 years of age. After being diagnosed, the average life expectancy is 11 months.
A large amount of asbestos remains in Australian buildings, despite the 2004 ban. It was used in construction due to its durability and fire and chemical resistance. Its use peaked in the 70s.
This report comes as a campaign to stop silicosis is ramping up.
Silicosis, similar to asbestos, is a disease caused by products used in construction. The silicosis crisis is said to be at epidemic levels in Australia.