Following on from Asbestos Awareness Week, an ABC media report on 3 December 2009 says that the Australian Workers Union is continuing to apply pressure to the Tasmanian Government and Cement Australia for testing of former employees and local residents for exposure to asbestos.
An epidemiological study of former employees has been agreed to by the company and is being conducted by Monash University. Dr Yossi Berger of the AWU wants the study to be expanded to residents.
The logic is sound, particularly in Railton where the entire community has been exposed to asbestos production and products over decades. Asbestos should be considered as more than a work-related hazard.
The union position on this pernicious substance received recent support from Matt Peacock’s book “Killer Company” that brought to the public’s attention the issue of asbestos bags being used in carpet underlay over many years. Peacock says that cases of mesothelioma that just appear without any direct link to asbestos-handling , use or manufacture could come from unsuspecting exposure to asbestos in seemingly innocuous sources, such as underlay.
The union must be fairly confident that the results of any study will provide incontrovertible proof of the spread of the asbestos hazard, so that there can be some “oomph” behind a broader public campaign. As mentioned at a recent Asbestos seminar, the evidence may exist but it needs to be translated into a format that the national decision-makers will accept and cannot contest. Then large-scale improvements are possible.