The widow of an anti-asbestos campaigner, the Wesley Research Group, and a number of physicians concerned by the alarming spike in asbestos-related deaths in Australia have combined forces to create a new organization which will research asbestos-related diseases and work to raise public awareness of the problems faced by those suffering from asbestos-related diseases. Bernie Banton died in 2007 at the age of 61; he contracted mesothelioma, a deadly asbestos-induced cancer, after years of working to secure compensation for workers and others exposed to asbestos. Before he died, Banton was successful in winning a $4 billion compensation package for Australians suffering from asbestos-related disease. His widow, Karen Banton, said that her husband’s strong beliefs forced him to fight for the rights of his fellow sufferers, saying “Bernie’s faith in God and his strong sense of justice just compelled him to want to do all he could to fight for others. I certainly didn’t want to stand in the way of that and did all I could to assist him.” Australia has one of the highest incidences of mesothelioma deaths in the world, owing largely to the island nation’s history of asbestos mining and production.
It is estimated that 27,000 Australians will die from asbestos-related conditions between 2000 and 2050, in addition to all those who died during the 20 th century. The new organization, the Asbestos Research Group, will study the progression of asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and malignant mesothelioma, and will fund research into how asbestos exposure reduces lung function and causes pain in sufferers. The Queensland-based group will also work to raise public awareness of asbestosis and other conditions both in the medical community and in the public at large, and has a mission to improve treatment of asbestos-related diseases and improving quality of life for sufferers. The group warns of a second peak of asbestos-related diseases over the next 20 years, as workers and miners exposed to asbestos in the latter part of the 20 th century begin to develop the conditions. Most asbestos-related diseases have very long latency periods, as long as 50 years in the case of malignant mesothelioma.