The revelation that some building materials imported to Australia are contaminated with asbestos shows the fight to eradicate this deadly mineral is not only far from over, it cannot be limited by national boundaries, particularly when they live in a global economy. One of the construction projects was Perth's Children's Hospital.
The World Health Organisation estimates a staggering 125 million people around the world are exposed to asbestos in the workplace each year. And as dreadful as that figure is, in reality it’s probably much greater since asbestos has such an insidious reach.
While Australia stopped using asbestos in building materials in the 1980s, it was only 13 years ago that they banned it entirely. It took years of campaigning and the repeated airing of the tragic individual stories of disease and death before they reached that goal.
In recent years, there have been a number of efforts to bring about such change from global organisations, including the World Health Organisation. But these campaigns are still nascent and will no doubt need the persuasive power that comes with direct diplomatic and trade relations between governments. It’s time for Australian domestic stakeholders from government and business through to the union movement and medical and legal experts to help local campaigners in their fight.
Sadly, it is not yet time for Australia to rest easy when it comes to asbestos. The use of asbestos is far from a legacy issue – tragically, it will remain a critical public health issue for many years to come and that means it’s an issue Australia can’t afford to ignore.
To read more on this story follow the link to the Australian Guardian newspaper below