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Schools asbestos death traps

By Alex Murdoch and Roberta Mancuso

From: AAP - April 08, 2005 - QUEENSLAND schools are death traps releasing potentially life-threatening asbestos fibres into the air, the state Opposition said today.

Two Queensland female teachers have died from the asbestos disease mesothelioma while a school cleaner has made a WorkCover claim after suffering an illness following an asbestos clean-up.

Deputy Opposition Leader Dr Bruce Flegg claimed the state Government had conducted a "cover-up" campaign to reassure schools their roofs were safe despite CSIRO studies, dating back as far as 1990, that said there was no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

"CSIRO found and produced a number of documents showing that after a relatively short period of exposure to the weather, of 15 to 20 years ... that the matrix of these asbestos roofs breaks down and they release free asbestos fibres into the air around the building," Dr Flegg said.

About 1200 of Queensland's 1300 state schools are on the Government asbestos register because they contain some asbestos materials.

But Acting Premier Anna Bligh said all dangerous asbestos that posed any health or safety risk to staff or students had been removed from schools in the early 1990s.

"Asbestos that remains in our schools is part of a register and is safe unless it is disturbed," she said.

"I'm concerned that the increasing escalation of this issue by Dr Flegg is doing nothing but scaremongering school staff and students and parents."

CSIRO scientists said their comments had been taken out of context and did not pertain to school safety, Ms Bligh said.

QBuild workers checked each school for asbestos problems at least once every three years, she said.

Schools considered to have potentially more serious asbestos problems were checked more regularly, while principals had an obligation to inform of storm damage.

More than 1000 Queensland schools had asbestos roofs, which would take a total of five years and $100 million to remove.

Since schools were completely safe, that money was being better spent on matters of more urgency.

But Dr Flegg said the Government should move now to replace the asbestos roofs on schools.

"Queensland is not such a poor state that we have to accept an element of risk for our children and teachers," he said.

Study suggests rare cancer is linked to asbestos in soil

July 13, 2005 - It has been shown that certain workers have a higher exposure rate to asbestos than the general public. Shipyard workers, miners, and Navy veterans, amongst hundreds of other professions, have paid the price for their direct contact with this deadly substance. However, a new study from the University of California-Davis Department of Public Health Sciences shows that where you live can also play a role.

The study tracked almost three thousand cases of malignant mesothelioma - a cancer caused only by asbestos exposure - over a ten year period in California. The findings were significant - "People who lived closer to an asbestos source had a greater chance of having mesothelioma," the study states, "and the chance decreased steadily as the distance increased''.

Although the study did not give an exact statistic for the chance of contracting mesothelioma if living on top of an asbestos source, it did show that the chance decrease by about 6.3% for every 6.2 miles in distance. A control group of patients with pancreatic cancer were used for the study, which showed no change in cancer rates based on location.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that has been attributed to asbestos exposure that can take 30-40 years to develop.. It can affect the lung lining, abdominal cavity, as well as the tissue surrounding the heart, and is almost always fatal. Although this study shows that geographic location may play a role, over 90% of mesothelioma patients have been directly exposed through their occupations.

Law Firm Welcomes Publication of Major new Research into Occupational Cancer Epidemic

Britain is facing a cancer epidemic that is killing 50 people every day which has been almost entirely missed in official statistics says a new survey by Hazards Magazine and the TUC which calls for an urgent and fully resourced public health response.

(PRWEB) November 27, 2005 -- Britain is facing a cancer epidemic that is killing 50 people every day which has been almost entirely missed in official statistics says a new survey by Hazards Magazine and the TUC which calls for an urgent and fully resourced public health response.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that just four per cent of the UK's annual cancer death toll (one in three people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, one in four will die from it) is as a result of exposure to carcinogens at work, which it says is equal to 6,000 deaths a year.

However, the 'Burying the evidence' report by Hazards, the TUC-backed health and safety magazine, concludes that the incidence of occupational cancer in the UK is much higher, and suggests that it is between 12,000 and 24,000 deaths a year (the equivalent of 16 per cent of all cancer deaths in the UK).

Jonathan Kay died in August 2005 at the age of 40. Shortly before his death, he had learned his employer, Kelda Group plc - formerly Yorkshire Water Authority - had admitted liability for the asbestos cancer that was to kill him.

Four months before his death from mesothelioma, a cruel and invariably fatal asbestos cancer, he said: "There was a level of dust that you could see in the air. You could taste it in your mouth." Mr Kay said his employers never gave him protective equipment, even though the government had introduced strict regulations regarding the use of asbestos some 20 years previously.

His solicitor Paul Webber of national law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "Jonathan fought hard for justice for himself, but most importantly for him, for his young family. Despite clearly being in extreme pain, he continued in his quest... Although Jonathan did not live to receive the compensation, he died secure in the knowledge that his family would be protected."

Jonathan Kay is one of a new generation of younger workers succumbing to asbestos cancers. Barry Welch was just 32 when he died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in April 2005, his death the result of a cancer which until recently was assumed to be a disease of old age. His exposure to the fatal fibre is thought to have occurred in childhood, caused by dust on his stepfather's work clothing. Mr Welch's inquest will be taking place on the 14th December in Leicester.

Neither Jonathan nor Barry had spent years in highly polluted heavy industry. They form part of an emerging epidemic which authorities failed to spot and, for the new generation of workplace killers, are doing precious little to prevent.

Irwin Mitchell have joined with the TUC and Hazards Magazine in calling for the real level of occupational cancers to be recognised and for urgent action to be undertaken on behalf of the government for more safeguards for those people exposed to hazardous materials, and for the full range of these hazards to be recognised.


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