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A Bundaberg man, who was exposed to asbestos over a 15 year period at different workplaces in north Queensland, has lodged a claim for compensation after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Mr Ernest Tanna, 63, worked as a labourer for various sugar mills, the Johnstone Shire Council, and Mount Isa Mines between the mid-1960s and 1980 and was believed to have been exposed to high levels of asbestos while undertaking his duties, his claim states.
Exposure to high levels of asbestos has long been regarded as one of the likely causes of lung cancer.
Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer, Carl Hughes, said that the firm was investigating the exposure at the different workplaces in order to seek compensation for Mr Tanna, who now has to cope with serious health problems and the burden of expensive medical treatment and travel costs.
“As a labourer, Mr Tanna was exposed to high levels of asbestos while working in sugar mills and the local council. He performed a variety of jobs including cutting cement fibro pipes and cleaning worksites,” Mr Hughes said.
However, Mr Hughes said the bulk of the claim would be against Xstrata Mount Isa Mines, where it is claimed that Mr Tanna was exposed to higher levels of asbestos dust and fibres.
“Mr Tanna is one of many former employees who worked both above and below ground at the mine and was exposed to asbestos insulation materials as frequently as on a daily basis. He also worked as part of the engineering workshop where he was exposed to asbestos dust from brake pads and brake linings,” he said.
“Mt Isa Mines did not provide these workers with masks or breathing equipment, and did not inform Mr Tanna or the other workers about the dangers of asbestos.
“Asbestos is very dangerous when it’s disturbed, and people should know that no matter what contact they have had with asbestos, the dangers are very real. This is a sad case when a team of hardworking men have had their lives destroyed due to Australia’s ugly history and reliance on asbestos products,” Mr Hughes said.
Mr Tanna said he was angry that he and his colleagues weren’t informed about the dangers of asbestos, considering the amount of dust that was generated.
“I would come home covered in dust from head to toe,” Mr Tanna said.
“If I would have known about the dangers of asbestos back then, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it.
“I was just doing my job and getting paid to do it, and now my life has been thrown into chaos and I’m concerned for my wife and family,” he said.
Mr Tanna is also concerned for his former colleagues, some of whom are already suffering from an asbestos-related disease and have approached Slater and Gordon to pursue their asbestos claim.
Mr Hughes said that with the diagnosis of asbestos-related cancers usually occurring 30-40 years after exposure, the extent of people exposed may not be known for years to come.
Mr Hughes said that he was continuing to hear people who believed they were exposed to asbestos at Mount Isa Mines and was hoping to hear from other former employees.
“While it’s certainly not the case that everyone who has been exposed to asbestos develops an asbestos-related illness, it is important that these employees put their name on the Slater and Gordon asbestos register, or contact a doctor for a general health check-up,” he said.
Mr Hughes said people could register their details with Slater and Gordon. Slater and Gordon’s asbestos register builds a database of workplaces where asbestos has been used, and is a comprehensive reference point in the event that workers develop an asbestos-related disease.