Australia’s ongoing legacy of asbestos: Significant challenges remain even after the complete banning of asbestos almost fifteen years ago

Matthew Soeberg, Deborah A. Vallance, Victoria Keena, Ken Takahashi, James Leigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The most effective way of reducing the global burden of asbestos-related diseases is through the implementation of asbestos bans and minimising occupational and non-occupational exposure to respirable asbestos fibres. Australia’s asbestos consumption peaked in the 1970s with Australia widely thought to have had among the highest per-capita asbestos consumption level of any country. Australia’s discontinuation of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and materials did not occur at a single point of time. Crocidolite consumption ceased in the late 1960s, followed by amosite consumption stopping in the mid 1980s. Despite significant government reports being published in 1990 and 1999, it was not until the end of 2003 that a complete ban on all forms of asbestos (crocidolite, amosite, and chrysotile) was introduced in Australia. The sustained efforts of trade unions and non-governmental organisations were essential in forcing the Australian government to finally implement the 2003 asbestos ban. Trade unions and non-government organisations continue to play a key role today in monitoring the government’s response to Australian asbestos-related disease epidemic. There are significant challenges that remain in Australia, despite a complete asbestos ban being implemented almost fifteen years ago. The Australian epidemic of asbestos-related disease has only now reached its peak. A total of 16,679 people were newly diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma between 1982 and 2016, with 84% of cases occurring in men. There has been a stabilisation of the age-standardised malignant mesothelioma incidence rate in the last 10 years. In 2016, the incidence rate per 100,000 was 2.5 using the Australian standard population and 1.3 using the Segi world standard population. Despite Australia’s complete asbestos ban being in place since 2003, public health efforts must continue to focus on preventing the devastating effects of avoidable asbestos-related diseases, including occupational and non-occupational groups who are potentially at risk from exposure to respirable asbestos fibres.

Original languageEnglish
Article number384
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


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