By RICKY VAN DER ZWAN and JULIE TUCKER
The digital age crashed into the bronze age when the roll out of Australia’s high-speed broadband network was disrupted by the discovery of asbestos in Telstra pits in recent weeks.
Workplace relations minister Bill Shorten is expected to introduce a bill to parliament later today to set up national registry for residents and contractors exposed to asbestos as a result of this work. In light of the strong link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer, the register is a sensible first step in managing the health risks associated with exposure to asbestos.
Q: What is asbestos?
A: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which humans have been mining for more than 4,000 years, principally for its fire-retardant properties.
Mining and production of asbestos increased substantially from the end of the industrial revolution in the middle of the 19th century, eventually peaking in the middle to late 20th century. By then asbestos was being used as a component in hundreds of everyday products such as building materials, brake linings, fuse-boxes, and pipe insulation.
Q: What are the heath risks?
A: Exposure to even a single fibre of asbestos dust can cause significant health problems. Every one of the six variations of the fibrous silicate minerals known collectively as asbestos have the potential to cause malignant lung cancers, mesothelioma, pleural plaques (calcification of the lungs), or asbestosis (pneumoconiosis, a type of lung disease).