Risk of Mesothelioma for Australian Carpet Owners

Mesothelioma, the aggressive asbestos cancer which is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos, is a risk for some Australian residents who have carpet in their homes, a physician told an Australian news program.
Respiratory physician Bill Musk warns that some of the burlap bags used to transport asbestos-containing materials were later reused as carpet underlay. Asbestos dust is very fine, even microscopic, and for that reason it can easily cling to fabrics.

Asbestos was once considered a miracle mineral, due to its extraordinary tensile strength and durability. It can be woven into cloth or mixed with building materials such as concrete, in order to render them impervious to fire, heat, and electrical conductivity. For this reason, it was widely used throughout much of the twentieth century in myriad commercial, industrial and even personal products. When asbestos fibers are disturbed or damaged, however, they can easily be inhaled or ingested, and tend to lodge themselves in the body’s soft tissues. Asbestos exposure can, over time, develop into malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other diseases.

Mesothelioma is rare, but becoming more common. It can take up to 50 years for the disease to become symptomatic, by which time it has usually already advanced to a later stage. Currently, although treatment is available to stop the spread of the disease and provide pain relief, mesothelioma is considered incurable.

A spokesperson for Western Australia’s Health Department is counseling home renovators to exercise caution when it comes to removing the carpet. It’s important, when dealing with potential asbestos contamination, to consult abatement professionals, who understand the necessary protocols for removing the toxic material safely.

The asbestos-contaminated burlap bags were used as carpet underlay until the 1970s, which is roughly when asbestos materials began to be phased out. Officials say that as many as tens of thousands of homes could have the dangerous underlay installed.