Asbestos still poses a threat to global health: now is the time for action

Peter D Sly, Robin Chase, John Kolbe, Philip Thompson, Leena Gupta, Mike Daube, Ian Olver and Deborah Vallance
Med J Aust 2010; 193 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb03866.x
Published online: 16 August 2010

Australia should support international bans on asbestos trade

The adverse health effects of asbestos are well known, with all forms of asbestos recognised as human carcinogens, causing malignant mesothelioma, lung, laryngeal and ovarian cancers1 as well as the debilitating non-malignant diffuse lung disease, asbestosis, and pleural plaques. Although use, import and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials is banned in Australia and 51 other countries,2 an estimated 125 million people around the world are still exposed to asbestos in their home and work environments.3 Crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos), two forms of asbestos that were heavily used in the past, are no longer in use. Chrysotile (white asbestos) accounts for 95% of the asbestos produced and used globally since 1990. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos4 and no discernible threshold below which there is no risk of mesothelioma.5

  • Peter D Sly1
  • Robin Chase2
  • John Kolbe2
  • Philip Thompson3
  • Leena Gupta2
  • Mike Daube4
  • Ian Olver5
  • Deborah Vallance6

  • 1 Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD.
  • 2 Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, Sydney, NSW.
  • 4 Public Health Association of Australia, Canberra, ACT.
  • 5 Cancer Council of Australia, Sydney, NSW.
  • 6 Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Melbourne, VIC.


Competing interests:

None identified.


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