It’s 25 years since the manufacture of asbestos stopped in Australia but the shadow it has cast over the lives of thousands of families is as dark as ever.
The asbestos tragedy we have seen in Australia is repeating itself in countries like India and Laos, and this time we don’t have ignorance as an excuse to do nothing.
Those who watched “Devil’s Dust” on ABC last week will have been reminded of the toll asbestos has taken, and the story is not finished yet.
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The March death of Everest man, Lincoln Hall, is a stark reminder that asbestos kills. Lincoln cheated death when he survived a night at 8600m near the summit of Mount Everest, without oxygen or proper equipment. But there was no escaping the disease caused by exposure to asbestos as a nine year old.
Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with around 700 people diagnosed each year. And as Lincoln’s death some 47 years after helping his father build two cubby houses with asbestos sheeting reminds us, the time between exposure and the onset of symptoms can be anywhere from 20 to 50 years.
For those who have already been exposed to this carcinogen, the reality is that it may be too late.
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James Hardie’s bosses should forget it if they imagine their company’s descent into a self-inflicted public relations purgatory will end any time soon.
It’s not going to happen while there are victims of asbestos-related diseases and their families capable of asking questions no-one in authority seems to anticipate or is prepared to answer without being pushed.
You see, so many of the people affected by the asbestos scourge are just so bloody courageous, eloquent and insightful in projecting the enormity of their suffering and loss—combined with an unrelenting quest for justice.
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