Letter: Help stop the spread of deadly asbestos fibres

Actor John Jarratt is the abassador for the Asbestos Awareness Month Campaign. Photo supplied
Actor John Jarratt is the abassador for the Asbestos Awareness Month Campaign. Photo supplied

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit all Australians hard and tragically taken the lives of more than 900 Aussies who've left behind heartbroken loved ones.

But what many don't know is that in 2020, more than 4000 Australians will die from asbestos-related diseases caused from exposure to asbestos fibres either in the home or in the workplace - that's over 3000 more deaths compared to the number of Australians who will have died from COVID-19 this year.

For more than 100 years Australians have been dying from asbestos-related diseases and as with COVID-19, the most effective means of preventing more deaths is to prevent exposure to the cause.

So, while we've listened to the warnings about COVID-19 and adhered to lockdown and quarantine laws; we've been meticulous in washing our hands; worn PPE and masks to limit community transmission and had on the job COVID Marshals. Now it's time Australian's listened to the warnings about asbestos so together we can stop the spread of asbestos fibres that can kill.

In Australia, asbestos was used extensively in the manufacture of more than 3000 products, products that can be lurking in any home built or renovated before 1987 including brick, weatherboard, clad and fibro homes and even apartments.

But what if these products are disturbed during renovations or maintenance? That's when fibres that can kill could be released into the air and inhaled by any bystanders including children.

We know that Aussies are pretty keen renovators and we all love doing a bit of DIY, but with the cause of asbestos-related deaths directly linked to DIY and renovating and more than 4000 Australians dying every year, the only way we will stop this third wave of avoidable deaths is to listen to the warnings and manage asbestos safely.

During National Asbestos Awareness Month we want renovators, DIYers, tradies, property managers, demolition, construction and farm workers to absolutely make it their business to learn how to manage asbestos safely by visiting asbestosawareness.com.au because it's just not worth the risk!

Asbestos is one product that may look harmless but it's not. In 2011 I lost one of my best mates, actor Harold Hopkins, to mesothelioma, as a result of being exposed to asbestos fibres on building sites.

Having the opportunity to warn people about the dangers is very personal and important to me. So when renovating or doing DIY, always remember to go slow, as Asbestos is a no go. It's not worth the risk.

Who knows, the life you save could be your own or that of a loved one.

Sincerely,

John Jarratt, ambassador, Asbestos Awareness Month Campaign