The reality is many of us living in Australia will have been at risk of exposure to asbestos at some time in our lives.
Maybe it was while renovating your first property or driving a nail into the wall to hang a picture in your rental, perhaps it was in your line of work, or it could have been while shaking the dust from your dad's overalls.
For many, asbestos exposure may not lead to a life-threatening condition, but for others, inhaling just one spore of the deadly dust can lead to deadly cancer or other life-threatening lung conditions.
It's a silent killer, often with victims only showing the first signs of illness 30 years after the initial exposure has occurred.
An estimated 4,000 people die each year from an asbestos-related disease, 700 from the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma.
Geoff Walls watched his dad die from asbestosis, caused after he was exposed to asbestos as a young man. Now he is suffering from the same disease, knowing what lies ahead.
Geoff was also exposed in his work as an electrician, and many may think of this as an 'old man's disease', something that doesn't affect you now and that you can worry about 30 years down the track.
But the risk suddenly becomes more apparent when you consider that many of the houses on the market deemed 'affordable' by the younger generation probably have asbestos in them. Homes built before 1990 will have had asbestos used in their construction. So that fibro beach shack that needs a touch of work is probably a death trap.
Asbestos was a magic material used in everything for its fire protection and insulation qualities. It was used as an adhesive for floor and wall tiles, in paint, roof tiles, wall and ceiling panels, dog kennels. You name it, and it wasn't banned in Australia until 2003.
The solution here isn't to freak out but rather make sure people understand the dangers of asbestos. Yes, it's expensive to remove, but I know what price I would rather pay, and it's not with my life.
- Gayle Tomlinson
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