Mesothelioma is a form of cancer in the mesothelium, the protective lining on the inside of body cavities and the outside of internal organs. The cells of the mesothelium become strange, and they begin to partition haphazardly. Statistics from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry managed by the Cancer Institute of New South Wales shows that about 93% of cases recorded in 2019, were pleural mesothelioma, which is cancer that occurs around the lungs. The other 7% of cases were mesothelioma in other areas of the body. The fundamental danger factor for mesothelioma is working with asbestos. The control limit for asbestos in Australia is 0.1 asbestos fibres per millilitre of air (0.1 f/ml) averaged over an eight-hour period. This control limit is not a ‘safe’ level and exposure must be reduced to as far below the control limit as possible. There is NEVER a safe amount of exposure to asbestos fibres, it is always a matter of life or death.
In this article, we highlight 10 occupations prone to mesothelioma in Australia.
- Demolition operatives – the use of explosives and machines to demolish structures or to loosen, remove or displace earth, rock, or other materials can generate airborne dust as well as settled dust on the ground, surfaces, clothing and vehicles which can later be propelled into the air by impact or movement. Soft strip demolition work can also produce high dust levels because of tasks such as grinding, drilling, cutting and chiseling. Demolition workers may encounter or disturb several asbestos containing materials. Inhalation of asbestos fibres causes mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. All are fatal or serious and incurable diseases that take many years to manifest.
- Electricians – installation, maintenance and repair of electrical wiring, equipment and fixtures can involve tasks which generate dust which is harmful when inhaled. Activities that might put electricians at risk of hazards exposure to dust include drilling and riveting when assembling parts and installing or examining electrical fixtures and appliances such as fuse boxes and generators and electrical control systems. Electricians encounter or disturb several asbestos containing materials, particularly if working in buildings. Asbestos is classified as a category 1 carcinogen. Mesothelioma is one of the many asbestos-related lung diseases that develops over time, is incurable and fatal.
- Plumbers and pipe layers – there are significant health hazards associated with plumbing, maintenance and refurbishment work. Drilling, breaking and fixing pipework and tanks/pits, cutting, pulling and sawing insulation materials can generate airborne dust which is harmful if inhaled. When working in buildings or in civil projects, particular those built before 2000, plumbers and pipe layers may come into contact with or disturb a number of different asbestos containing materials. Inhalation of respirable asbestos fibres causes pleural mesothelioma which affects the lining of the lungs. No amount of exposure to asbestos fibres is safe. Asbestos-related diseases often result in death.
- Roofers – roofing work is varied. It includes covering structures with shingles, slate, asphalt and other materials. This also involves spraying roofs, sidings, and walls to bind, seal, insulate or soundproof. Demolishing or repairing of asbestos cement roofs, cleaning roofs and clearing out roof spaces. All these different types of works, involve exposure to asbestos dust and the biggest respiratory health risks come from it.
- Plasterer – the main respiratory hazard associated with plastering activities is exposure to airborne plaster dust when mixing the material from a dry state to a wet in preparation for use, and during sanding down of dried materials. Inhalation of dust from these materials can lead to respiratory complaints and potentially serious diseases in the long term with inadvertent disturbance of asbestos containing materials a huge risk. Plasterers can be at risk of exposure to asbestos from preparation of surfaces such as textured coverings especially when sanding or grinding and disturbing asbestos containing materials. Airborne asbestos can bypass the lung defence system and lodge deep into the lungs results in mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. All these asbestos related diseases are fatal.
- Shipyard workers – Vast tonnes of asbestos have been used to insulate the hulls, boilers and pipes of ships. The ship-breaking industry in the shipyards of Australia consists of many different asbestos products mainly in the pipe lagging and in lining cabins and other rooms with asbestos-containing boards. Much asbestos cloth is used in electrical preheating and there are many other minor uses. Various shipyard personnel work together in confined spaces which regardless of how old the ship to be scraped was there is risk of occupational exposure to asbestos fibres. Asbestos is so tough that it usually outlives the products in which it is used. The long latency period of development of mesothelioma symptoms delays the process of acting on time to effect possible fighting chances of the lungs such in the case of pleural mesothelioma.
- Metal fitter – assembly, installation and maintenance of metal fittings such as pipe fittings and related hydraulic and pneumatic equipment can expose metal fitters to many different respiratory health hazards including asbestos dust. Use of hand and power tools during pipe installations and cleaning. The risk of exposure to asbestos fibres is always high and the aim is to avoid exposure completely. Asbestos information should be present from the facility’s asbestos management plan and asbestos register. Metal fitters may come encounter several asbestos containing materials. Asbestos fibres pose a fatal danger when inhaled which leads to asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening.
- Floor tilers – the biggest risks to a tiler’s respiratory health are likely to be from hazardous dusts generated by tasks such as cutting and grinding wall and floor tiles, mixing granite, terrazzo, synthetic resin or other composition mixtures, and cleaning floor surfaces. Another exposure is when pulling up old flooring in preparation to lay tiles. Tilers may encounter or disturb asbestos containing materials during maintenance work. Asbestos is carcinogenic; therefore, it is fatal. Mesothelioma develops from exposure to asbestos fibres and its progression is often taking place unnoticed until symptoms develop which in most cases it’s too late and loss of life is the result.
- Licensed asbestos removal workers – licensable work is typically required on demolition, renovations and maintenance projects where asbestos containing materials such as boiler and pipe insulation, sprayed coatings and asbestos insulating boards may need to be disturbed or removed. Asbestos containing materials may need to be disturbed during ancillary works such as scaffold erection. When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged and become friable, fibres are released into the air which, when inhaled can cause mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is incurable and fatal.
- General site labourers – a general site operative can have many different roles, ranging from site preparation, demolition work, plant and machinery operation, clean up, waste removal and assisting other trades such as plasterers with preparing and applying materials. There is risk of exposure to many different harmful occupational dusts such as asbestos dust which can lead to mesothelioma.
As Global Road Technology, we actively participate in providing solutions for your asbestos management plan. Our two products, GRT Rubble-Loc and GRT: Activate is your complete demolition and recovery site wet dust control solution. It is designed for application through standard spraying equipment offering a simple to use and safe for workers and environment product that can be diluted with water. When buildings and other structures are demolished hazardous substances such as asbestos, which causes mesothelioma can become airborne. We have listed 10 occupations that are prone to mesothelioma in Australia and use of GRT Rubble-Loc can bind asbestos dust at its source providing contractors, regulators and surrounding residents peace of mind that asbestos dust fibres are locked down on site. For dynamic tasks, GRT: Activate can be dosed into the water spayed or fogged for dust control to make it actually work! Quantities and applications can be tailored for applications from a few days to 12 months. Treat all asbestos as dangerous. There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos, it causes fatal cancers.
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