A team of Perth based researchers at Curtin University and the University of Western Australia have recently completed the world’s first survey to gauge the level of exposure to asbestos among the ordinary population.
Professor Peter Howat, Director of the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer Control at Curtin University, lead the research team which found more than 80% of those surveyed had been exposed to asbestos at some time in their lives. Using a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the researchers set out to determine the extent of exposure to asbestos throughout Australian communities; the actions taken to minimise exposure, and to identify the best way to deal with the potential threat of asbestos in Australian homes. The team embarked on a telephone interview survey of 2,800 Australian adults from all Australian states and territories. This was followed by more in-depth interviews.
This was the fist ever national survey of Asbestos exposure in the world to our knowledge. The research team for this project was Peter Howat, Geoffrey Jalleh, Chad Lin, Alsion Reid, Bill Musk and Nick de Klerk.
What the survey found
Of the group surveyed, more than 80% had been exposed to asbestos, with a higher number in rural areas. Of this, only 46% took precautions to reduce their exposure to asbestos fibres or dust at work and only about a third took safety precautions at home. Those surveyed believed their risk of developing an asbestos-related disease was low.
What the researchers think should be done
Professor Howat and the researchers are gravely concerned about the high number of Australians exposed to asbestos, especially, unsuspectingly, at home. They want strategies implemented urgently to reduce future exposure to asbestos dust and fibres in Australian homes.