Sailors serving to keep Australian waters safe in the Navy are being put at risk from the asbestos still in use years past its being outlawed. According to a report from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) chiefs, thousands could be exposed to asbestos, a known carcinogen.
The number of diseases caused by asbestos is large, and continually growing. Most often, this substance harms the lungs and results in some form of cancer, including the deadly mesothelioma. This type of cancer cannot be diagnosed for years after exposure, and once it is, the patient usually only has a few months to live. With asbestos use banned in new constructions and materials and its removal required from older structures, there is no excuse in the modern world to be put at risk for lung cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma.
Such does not seem to be the case in the Australian navy. According to the report conducted by the SYPAQ Systems, “thousands of personnel” were put at a “potential catastrophic” risk by being exposed to cancer-causing chrysotile asbestos. The report noted that almost a quarter of a million parts in naval storage areas contained asbestos, and many of those are still in use by the Navy. After asbestos use was outlawed December 31, 2003, the report found that: “It can be assumed there have been over 350 issues of 775 asbestos items to operational units and ship repair organisations….” The ADF pled an exemption until the close of 2007, citing that the parts containing asbestos were “mission-critical” and there were no substitutes available free of asbestos. The ADF at the end of 2008 was granted until 2010 to have all asbestos products removed from use. A spokesman from the ADF said that the entity did not accept the findings of the study, but Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said that the manner in which the ADF was dealing with the report was “unacceptable.”