According to Barry Robson, President of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation in Australia, the “third wave” of asbestos disease victims are just now beginning to experience symptoms of asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-caused respiratory ailments.
“What we’re seeing now are thousands and thousands of mums and dads who didn’t know the danger of asbestos and were exposed to it when doing their home renovations,” stated Robson.
Despite a ban on asbestos products in Australia in 1984, Robson stated that an increased number of individuals are now suffering from an asbestos-caused disease as a result of exposure while completing do-it-yourself home renovations, such as removing asbestos-laden insulation or replacing asbestos floor tiles.
The latest group of Australian’s to be diagnosed with an asbestos-caused illness are known as the “third wave,” said Robson. The “first wave” of exposure occurred in the 1930s to the 1950s, when asbestos was first manufactured and countless workers inhaled asbestos. In the 1950s, the “second wave” of exposure occurred, including Bernie Banton, a former employee of James Hardie Ltd. and a victim of mesothelioma cancer who passed away in 2007 after years of campaigning for a change in asbestos-related legislation.
Robson says this “third wave” of asbestos victims will include a large number of women who were exposed in a secondhand fashion, perhaps while washing their spouse’s work clothes. In fact, the Australian Cancer Institute projects a 20% increase in mesothelioma cases in women by 2011.
The Institute recently created a support group specifically for women suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused illnesses. Carol Klinfalt, the group’s director, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006 and despite being given only six months to live is still alive, thanks to what she calls an “intensive approach” to cancer treatment.
“It’s amazing the amount of asbestos there is in homes still,” Klinfalt said. “The young ones; they’re buying their first homes and it’s in the house, or the garage, or the shed.”
Klinfalt, along with Pathology Professor Douglas Henderson, says that a lack of knowledge in Australia about the danger of asbestos in older homes is a disadvantage for new homeowners.
Professor Henderson says that, as a result, Australia will see “significant numbers of mesothelioma” in the coming years.
In the United States, asbestos exposure in homes built before the 1980s continues to be an issue, especially in difficult economic times. Rather than hiring a professional to conduct home repairs, many homeowners are tackling these projects on their own, and may risk exposure to asbestos as a result.