In recent years I’ve noticed that more women are being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Read Audrey Albinger’s story here.
With the number of asbestos cases in Australia not due to peak until 2020, it’s vital that people are educated about the dangers of asbestos, particularly when renovating old homes.
Asbestos victims have traditionally been men
Over the past 20 years I’ve met countless people who’ve become seriously ill after being exposed to asbestos. Mostly, they were men – usually miners, manufacturing workers and tradesmen.
Asbestos exposure isn’t just industrial
What was initially a concern for those male dominated industries has now become a nation-wide health alert affecting people in non-industrial workplaces as well.
How women have been exposed to asbestos
In the past, women were exposed to asbestos as a result of inhaling fibres while handling and washing their husband’s dirty clothing.
But these days, the majority of the women I see are part of the so-called ‘third wave’ - those who were exposed to asbestos during home maintenance and renovations over the past 40 years.
Some women were exposed as children
Some of these women were exposed to asbestos as children while their parents renovated the family home. They breathed in the dangerous fibres released into the air. Unfortunately many are mothers themselves by the time they become sick.
Home maintenance has resulted in exposure
Other women developed asbestos-related diseases after doing their own home maintenance or renovations. Tearing down walls or pulling up floors they dislodged asbestos that lay dormant for years.
At the moment women account for around 20 per cent of asbestos victims, but that figure is expected to rise in coming years.
There’s no doubt that women play an important role in society, and their exposure to asbestos may have wider implications and result in greater hardships for the family.
Anyone who is concerned about exposure to asbestos is encouraged to register the nature and circumstances of the exposure on an established database, in case you develop an asbestos related illness in the future.