The widespread use of asbestos in Victoria in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, particularly in building and construction, meant that workers involved in asbestos removal, renovation or maintenance work that disturbs existing ‘in situ’ asbestos would remain at risk. Plumbers particularly are at the sharp end of the problem.
Executive Director of the MPMSAA Mr Herbert said, “SILENT and insidious, asbestos kills not just those who work with it, but it can also kill those who know people working with it, if the workers don’t take the proper precautions.”
“This can lead to the tragic situation where the wives and children of plumbers who come in contact with asbestos and transport it home on their clothing can be killed by the deadly fibres.”
“As a young wife Barbara O’Shea washed her husband’s work clothes without realising they harboured the deadly asbestos fibres and dust that caused her death more than 20 years later”.
According to the Asbestos Information Support Service Inc (AISS) it is estimated that between 2003 and 2020 more than 13,000 Australians will die from mesothelioma and a further 40,000 will develop asbestosis, with a 90% chance of developing full-blown mesothelioma over time.
Mr Herbert said that it is commonplace for plumbers to encounter asbestos in the course of their work and the vital point is asbestos doesn’t need continual contact over a long period to do its damage. Just one brief encounter can be enough.B
Mr Herbert said that many routine repairs, renovation and maintenance activities – even putting in a new heating system – can disrupt asbestos, releasing millions of fibres into a home, school or office.
Asbestos-cement products that may be found around the home include:
- Flat or corrugated sheeting (commonly called fibro or AC sheeting)
- Water or flue pipes
- Roof shingles
- Flexible building boards
- Imitation brick cladding
Other materials that may contain firmly bound asbestos fibres include:
- Textured paint
- Vinyl floor tiles
- The backing of linoleum floor coverings
Mr Herbert said, one of the major problems is that there is a low awareness of the dangers of asbestos removal in the building industry which is basically made up of small sub-contractors.
“Corrective action must be taken wherever the risk arises for asbestos fibres to escape into the environment”.