National Asbestos Awareness Month



November is National Asbestos Awareness Month, an opportunity to reflect on the many lives we have lost to asbestos-related diseases and to educate the community about the ongoing risk of asbestos exposure.

Tragically, mesothelioma accounts for over 700 deaths per year in Australia and the true burden of asbestos related disease is over 4,000 Australian lives every year. In Asia, exposure to asbestos kills an estimated 60,000 people every year.

The international arm of the Australian union movement –Union Aid Abroad APEHDA has been working for decades to eradicate asbestos exposure in developing countries. In our own backyard, there is still a huge amount of work to be done to ensure that Australian workplaces and homes are safe from asbestos contamination.

According to Phillip Hazelton, Asia Campaign Coordinator for the Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases at Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA:

“Asbestos is still being widely used in Asia and millions of people are being exposed to this deadly substance. There are an estimated 220,000 deaths every year from asbestos related diseases, 60,000 of those in Asia. The Asian death toll is expected to skyrocket in coming decades. The vast majority of suffers do not know what is causing their cancer and in many places there is often no treatment or compensation,” he said.

“Australia understands the tragic legacy of asbestos all too well and we have a duty to show strong international leadership to end asbestos use. As an organisation of the Australian Union movement we’re proud of the legacy of the hard-fought battles to win an asbestos ban in Australia and just compensation for those with asbestos diseases.

“Indonesia is the second largest importer of raw asbestos in the world. Asbestos is used in construction, manufacturing and a range of products and processes.

“Doctors, Trade Unions, activists, people suffering with asbestos related diseases, workers and community members in Asia are working to end asbestos use. The asbestos lobby is using lies and misinformation on the ‘safe use’ of asbestos to keep their industry alive at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.

The ACTU calls on the government to take immediate action

The peak body for the union movement, the ACTU has called on the Morrison Government to take action to protect the health of working people across Asia, including in Australia by taking immediate action at home and leading reform internationally.

The ACTU has called on the Morrison Government to take immediate action to address this massive public health crisis in our region by:

  • Ensuring that no Australian or international development money is funding asbestos in Asia through the Asian Development Bank.
  • Leading reform of the UN Rotterdam Convention that regulates trade in dangerous chemicals
  • Addressing the asbestos industry lobby through a regional initiative
  • Improving work, health safety laws.

If you would like to know more about the important work of Union Aid Abroad APHEDA, please go to their website here: