SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Asbestos is a group of minerals that have been linked to many diseases, including lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma is a rare type of fast-growing cancer that is most often caused by exposure to asbestos.
- Asbestos is banned in Australia but is still found in older materials. It is important to take care to avoid exposure to asbestos at home and at work.
Asbestos was banned in Australia in 2004. It is illegal to store, sell, install or re-use any products containing asbestos in Australia, and no asbestos products may be imported. Asbestos products already in place are allowed and many buildings and houses still have asbestos in them. Everyone needs to take special care to avoid asbestos dust at home and work.
High-risk jobs and asbestos
Almost everyone has been exposed to asbestos in small degrees. People with certain jobs are at greater risk than others, even if it was a long time ago. Some high risk jobs are:
- painters and decorators
- fitters and turners
- transport, sea and wharf or waterside workers
- asbestos mining and cement manufacturing
Asbestos in your home
Most homes built before 1990 contain some asbestos. You can’t usually tell where asbestos is in your house by looking at it.
You can pay someone to inspect and test your house for asbestos. If you are doing any kind of renovations at home it is very important to check for asbestos first.
Some of the parts of your home that may contain asbestos are:
- in the roof
- in the eaves
- old vinyl tiles
- and many more places.
There are strict rules to make sure people are not exposed to asbestos at work. These include wearing special protective equipment and following safety procedures.
If you need to remove asbestos in your house, or if you are doing renovations, you can get help and advice on how to do this safely.
Asbestos and lung cancer
Asbestos can cause lung cancer. People who smoke have an even higher risk of developing lung cancer. If you are worried about your risk of lung cancer because of asbestos, talk to your GP. You can find out more about .
Asbestos and mesothelioma
is a rare cancer that is mainly caused by asbestos. Mesothelioma takes many years to develop, around 20 to 40 years. Even if you haven’t been exposed to asbestos for many years, it is unfortunately possible to develop mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma often affects the lungs but it is not the same as lung cancer. Mesothelioma can also the tummy (abdomen), but this is less common.
Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. This because asbestos was used herein products, housing and mining over many years.
Most people who are exposed to asbestos in small amounts do not develop mesothelioma. If you are worried about your risk of mesothelioma, speak to your GP.
Other illnesses linked to asbestos
Asbestos can also cause other health conditions:
- asbestosis – scar tissue forms inside the lungs and makes breathing difficult
- pleural plaque – asbestos fibres can cause thickened patches of scar tissue on the pleura, or lung lining.
If you are worried about asbestos and your health, speak to your GP.
Can I get compensation?
Some people who develop diseases after exposure to asbestos may be entitled to seek compensation. Make notes and talk to friends, family or colleagues about when you may have been exposed to asbestos. Get advice from an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
Your feelings about asbestos
Many people feel shocked and overwhelmed when thinking about asbestos and their health. It is important to talk to other people for support and advice. You might want to talk to:
- a trusted friend or family member
- a or
- an experienced lawyer
- a support group or organisation