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Blue Mountains Council Refuses to Disclose Asbestos Records Amidst Mesothelioma Death

Blue Mountains City Council has been in the headlines for several weeks following the January 2020 death of a former council member Morris Pugh. Mr. Pugh worked with Blue Mountains City Council as a plant operator for nearly three decades until his retirement in 2015. Mr. Pugh was 64 when he lost his battle with mesothelioma earlier this year. Mr. Pugh did not want his fellow co-workers to come face to face with the same fate as he did. Blue Mountains City Council has been in the news for years surrounding allegations over asbestos mismanagement. 

Mr. Pugh expressed his dying wish to Nancy Marlor, Mr. Pugh’s longtime partner. Mr. Pugh asked that Blue Mountains City Council contact former council employees and offer free health screenings to detect mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease. Ms. Marlor went in front of the council to see through Mr. Pugh’s dying wish. Sadly, Mr. Pugh is among other Australians who have developed the disease. 

Asbestos-related illnesses are starting to surface; as a result, routine exposure, especially in occupational settings. There are also non-occupational risks of asbestos hazards, known as environmental exposure. This was most prevalent in mining towns in the country. Australia appears to hold one of the greatest incident rates of malignant mesothelioma as a result of high per-person exposure to asbestos in the past. 

February 25, 2020, Blue Mountain’s City Council Meeting 

Councilor Brown and Councilor Schreiber raised a motion at the February 25, 2020. The motion asked that Blue Mountains City Council publish historical asbestos records. Additionally, the motion asked for the council to approve the following actions: 

  • Contact Mr. Pugh’s fellow colleagues and other council employees who left the council between 2000 to date. Specifically, the motion asked that the council inform them of his passing and his dying wish for them to have access and receive a free medical screening and health evaluation to detect any asbestos-related disease. 
  • The Council provide the past employees with a thorough and detailed list of all of the medium and high risk sites identified by the Air Safe Audit of council properties conducted in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The asbestos register identified 25 high risk cites in the 2017 Centium Report. The motion also asks that the Air Safe’s Audit and Centium Report’s recommendations and dates of remediation or removal if applicable. 
  • The medium and high risk sites, audits, reports, recommendations, and actions be published on Blue Mountains City Council’s website on the asbestos management page. 
  • Morris Pugh’s co-workers and the councils former and current workers have access to free counseling services through Blue Mountains’ counseling service provider, Life Works. 
  • Lastly, that the council announce the Work Health and Safety (WHS) initiative will be initiated on March 1, 2020, and should provide any employee retiring from Blue Mountains City Council with a “Well-Bring Information Package” with resources and links including services offered by icare’s Dust Diseases Care. 

The Motion was lost with a vote of three for the approval of the motion and eight for the denial. Another motion was brought before Blue Mountains City Council, which passed with only one vote to deny. This Motion approved the council to do the following concerning the letter received by Mr. Pugh’s partner Nancy Marlor about Mr. Pugh’s passing:

  • The council will compose a letter to Mr. Pugh’s family, offering the council’s sincerest condolences and will also address the requests made in the letter.
  • The council will contact Mr. Pugh’s fellow workers who left between 2010 to date to inform them of his passing and offer free medical screenings relating to the risks they may face related to an asbestos-related illness and relay information from icare Dust Diseases Care to retired employees in New South Wales who develop a “dust-related” disease such as mesothelioma. 
  • The council provided in this motion that if any of the workers do have a dust-related disease or any other related health issues that the council shall provide relevant work history information (if required) in an effort to assist them in constructing claims and applying for support through icare Dust Diseases Care.
  • Morris Pugh’s co-workers and the councils former and current workers have access to free counseling services through Blue Mountains’ counseling service provider, Life Works. 
  • Lastly, that the council announces the Work Health and Safety (WHS) initiative will be initiated on March 1, 2020, and should provide any employee retiring from Blue Mountains City Council with a “Well-Bring Information Package” with resources and links including services provided by icare’s Dust Diseases Care. Additionally, the information packets will include any existing and future workplace health initiatives planned for former and current Blue Mountains City Council’s employees.

In the meeting, a report disclosed that $477.540.72 had been spent on legal services, and more costs will occur when the inquiry starts in March of this year. The Blue Mountains Gazette reported that “[s]ignificant costs, probably in the order of those already incurred, are expected in future, especially in relation to the pending hearings regarding asbestos management.”

Blue Mountains City Council’s Plan to Contact Former Employees

As approved in the motion above, the Blue Mountains City Council announced that they will contact all of Mr. Pugh’s co-workers from the last ten years. The council expressed that they intend to inform them of Mr. Pugh’s passing and provide advice on free medical screenings and counseling available to them. 

While this is a step in the right direction, Councilor Brown expressed that it does not go far enough. She voiced that Mr. Pugh’s untimely death served as “a reminder that asbestos plays a long and terrible game,” the Gazette reported. 

Push to Publicly Reveal Historical Asbestos Records

Kerry Brown, Greens Councilor, adamantly pushed for Blue Mountains City Council to publicly release its “medium to high risk” asbestos locations. Councilor Brown specifically asked for the public disclosure of the asbestos locations prior to May of 2017.

Blue Mountains City Council held a meeting on February 25, 2020, where they rejected the proposal. According to the Blue Mountain Gazette, Councilor Brown expressed to council members at the meeting that, “[w]hile the practices are historic, the impacts are not.” 

Councilor Brown urged the council to fess up to the previously dangerous sites contaminated with asbestos. She requested that the information be displayed on Blue Mountains City Council’s asbestos management page. As stated above, this motion was denied, and the rebuttal motion did not include that such reports would be made available to the public, nor does the Blue Mountains’ City Council intend on publishing the information on their website. 

The report presented at the recent council meeting on February 25, 2020, singled out Councilor Brown, who asked about the costs of the legal fees. The report states that “…to date the costs of responding to submissions made to the Inquiry by Cr Brown have been significantly greater than the costs of responding to the submissions made by Counsel Assisting [ the Commissioner of the Inquiry].” The issue is heating up and becoming quite controversial. Councilor Brown told the Blue Mountains Gazette, “In my view, council should follow the norm and have one dedicated staff member providing documents to the Inquiry, not three full-time staffers for more than 18 months plus consultants; and one legal representative, not two including a barrister. In contrast, the Commissioner of the Inquiry has had Counsel Assisting and a solicitor who also does the administrative work.”

The Blue Mountains Council has, however, turned over 21,000 documents and records in relation to the public inquiry. The council contends that its project team has worked diligently since 2018 on Blue Mountains City Council’s repose to the Environmental Protection Authority (SPA) and Safe Work New South Wales investigations. The council also provided that they retained the services of an asbestos management consultant in 2019. 

The Blue Mountains City Council still has a long road ahead as the challenges to combat the asbestos issue heats up. The Blue Mountain Gazette reported on March 2, 2020, that, “[l]ast month council signed an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with Safe Work in lieu of the regulatory body proceeding with eight prosecutions in relation to events at Lawson Hall car park and the Lawson depot in 2016 and 2017. The EU to improve worker, community, and local government asbestos safety will cost council $287,680 to implement. Council has already spent more than $1.2m on addressing issues at Lawson. The full cost of councils asbestos clean up in 2017-18 is estimated at $11m.”

Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare but deadly cancer. The only known cause of mesothelioma is the exposure to the carcinogen asbestos. Tiny asbestos fibers cling to the linings of certain organs, igniting the growth of malignant tumors. Mesothelioma does not usually present symptoms for at least 10-20 years. This latency period masks the hidden dangers lurking in the membranes of one’s lungs, heart, abdomen, or other vital organs. 

Mr. Pugh eventually developed mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos while he was a plant worker for Blue Mountains City Council. Mr. Pugh contracted the illness in the workplace, more commonly known as occupational exposure. 

The use of asbestos in Australia has caused a major asbestos-related disease burden. This burden includes malignant mesothelioma, which is what Mr. Pugh was diagnosed with and the disease that ultimately took his life.  

According to a source and implementing information gathered from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Mesothelioma Registry, “…16,679 people were newly diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in Australia between 1982 and 2016 with 84% (13,928) of those incident cases occurring in men. The majority of incident cases (around 70%) during this period were aged 65 years or more.”

The Concerns of Asbestos Levels in Buildings

Councilor Brown pushed for the disclosure of the records to uncover the serious threat former council employees face. According to a source, Councilor Brown stated, “[w]e know from commissioned reports and asbestos testing and more than 20 Safe Work notices in 2017 that there are specific council sites where there was unmanaged, unstable or friable asbestos, often for years.” However, Dr. Rosemary Dillon, Blue Mountain City Council’s chief executive officer, replied that it was simply untrue and harmful to imply that the Council had knowledge of the location of unstable or friable asbestos. She further denied that the Council would conceal such information. She also stated that there is an asbestos register in every building that contains the toxin. 

Friable asbestos is loosely bound and is the most dangerous asbestos fiber that can be emitted into the air. Materials containing friable asbestos are those asbestos fibers that are loosely bound, and the asbestos materials are those which can be reduced or fragmented to powder by hand. Bonded asbestos, such as cement containing asbestos, can turn into friable asbestos if it is severely damaged by fire. 

Dr. Dillon defended the council contenting that they have worked to deal with the historical issue of asbestos on its properties. Moreover, she stated that several reports had been commissioned to find where the asbestos is located and the degree of risk it creates. Councilor Brown voiced that providing such information on the Council’s website would demonstrate that not only that, the sites are clean now, but the time of which they were not safe and the dates they were addressed and remedied.   

According to a source Councilor, Brown asked, “…that the council-requested 2014-2016 Air Safe audit of council properties for the asbestos register and the 25 high risk sites identified in the 2017 Centium report be put on the website, as well as information of risks arising from Safe Work and EPA notices of 2017 and dates of their remediation.”

Chief executive Dr. Dillion relayed to the council members that out of the 25 Centium sites, 17 of them have been addressed when the report was initially released, and that the majority of asbestos occurrences were minor. Dr. Dillion told the council members at the meeting that, “[t]he specialist asbestos company Air Safe conducted a number of audits … identifying needed repairs. However, not one of the Air Safe reports recommended the closure of any council building.”

Buildings in Australia were used extensively from the 1940s to the 1980s. According to a source, “[i]t is therefore likely, virtually every School or Public Use Facility built before 1990, contains asbestos of some kind – unless there is evidence to the contrary it should be assumed all facilities built before 1990 do contain Asbestos Containing Building Products and Materials of some kind, and all those built before 2004 (when the use of all forms of asbestos was banned) have the possibility of containing products that have been made with asbestos content.”

The Benefits of Releasing the Asbestos Reports 

Councilor Brown praised the council’s efforts over the past two years developing health and safety systems and cleaning asbestos. However, she strongly expressed that the council cannot simply undo that has previously happened. Councilor Brown told the Blue Mountains Gazette that “…early testing would ensure people have a proper record if they do develop the disease and could help with compensation claims.”

Dr. Dillion stated that diseases related to asbestos were a “scourge.” She told the Gazette that, “[t]he illness can be diagnosed decades after first exposure. It is often very difficult to identify the circumstances in which exposure occurred, not least because of the very widespread use of the substance, in both domestic and commercial premises, for decades.”

Councilor Brown will continue to push for public disclosure of the records to raise awareness. The goal is not only to educate the former council workers of potential asbestos-related diseases but also the levels of asbestos they were exposed to. Mr. Pugh’s family and friends hope that the council will continue to fulfill Mr. Pugh’s dying wish and protect others from the devastating disease. Asbestos not only causes malignant mesothelioma but has also been found to cause cancer of the ovary, lung, and larynx. 

Councilor Brown is not alone in fighting for the disclosure and ongoing plans to improve the outcome of those diagnosed with asbestos-related diseased. The Australian Asbestos Network is working to conduct research to improve early detection and treatment options for those diagnosed with the frequently fatal cancer.

Safe Work Australia

Safe Work Australia sets the standards for workers exposed to asbestos and provides strict limits that cannot be exceeded. Air testing and monitoring can verify if the exposure to the toxin is being adequately managed. According to the Cancer Council of Australia, “[h]ealth monitoring identifies workers who have an increased risk of developing a work-related disease. In some states and territories, health monitoring must be provided to a worker if they are carrying out asbestos-related work.” 

Each state in Australia can incorporate its own restrictions and limitations. Safe Work simply provides a model WHS that the states can adjust or modify as they see fit. Safe Work Australia created a set of work health and safety laws to be applied across the nation. Since they are “model laws,” each Commonwealth, state, or territory must separately incorporate them as their own respective laws to become legally binding. Safe Work Australia does not enforce the work health and safety laws; instead, it is responsible for maintaining the model work health and safety laws.    

On March 10, 2020, Safe Work Australia amended the model work health and safety laws to make sure the work health and safety regulators hold the proper powers to approach and deal with prohibited asbestos in the workplace. Specifically, to have the authority to deal with the asbestos when it is found in the workplace. The purpose of the amendment is to provide for a greater confidence in the control and regulation of prohibited asbestos.

Prohibited asbestos refers to asbestos installed or fixed in the workplace after the prohibition of the toxin was introduced. The press release issued on March 10, 2020, explained, “[u]nder the changes, the WHS regulator must issue a ‘prohibited asbestos notice’ if they reasonably believe prohibited asbestos is present in a workplace. This is even if the asbestos is discovered long after any work involving it has been completed.”

The regulator will decide who receives the notice, which is to specify what measure shall be taken to remedy the prohibited asbestos. Immediate removal of asbestos seems ideal but may not always be suitable. For example, if the removal presents a credible risk to health and safety, another remedy should be sought. The notice provided will also set a period of time for compliance, and that period of time should be reasonable within the circumstances. 

The History of Asbestos Exposure in Australia is Alarming 

Mr. Pugh started his career with Blue Mountains City Council in 1980. According to a source, “[v]ery high asbestos use was recorded in Australia (5.1 kg per capita/year in the 1970s).” Australia was immensely diluted with asbestos, exposing thousands to the deadly toxin. Australia completely banned asbestos in 2003. However, a recent study found that “[i]n 2016, the incidence rate per 100,000 was 2.5 using the Australian standard population and 1.3 using the Segi world standard population.”

Another study evaluated the trends of malignant mesothelioma instances in Australia from 1945 to 2002. The study reported that the country 7,027 cases from between that time frame. In 1998 the Asbestos Disease Foundation of Australia played a substantial role in bringing changes to New South Wales’ laws regarding “dust diseases,” which was a first for the country. 

Studies are usually performed on animals such as lab rats so the scientist can gain a better understanding of how the disease progresses. The findings can help find treatment options for humans. Studies have also been conducted on companion animals, such as dogs. An older study found that mesothelioma was reported in pet dogs who had exposure to asbestos in the homes of their owners. Eighteen of the dogs in the study were diagnosed with mesothelioma, and 32 dogs were gender, age, and breed-matched control dogs were studied. 

The researchers interviewed 16 owners of mesothelioma cases, and all owners of the control dogs were interviewed. The study found that “[a]n asbestos-related occupation or hobby of a household member was significantly associated with mesothelioma observed in cases (OR, 8.0; 95%CI: 1.4–45.9). Lung tissue from three dogs with mesothelioma and one dog with squamous cell carcinoma of the lung had higher level of chrysotile asbestos fibers than lung tissue from control dogs.” 

Workers Exposed to Asbestos and Occupational Hazards

Workers across the country in certain industries are likely to have been exposed to asbestos, especially prior to the ban in 2003. All workers in the following industries are at risk of exposure to asbestos:

  • Construction Workers
  • Electricians and Telecommunication Providers
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Carpenters
  • Landfill Operators
  • Boilermakers 
  • Machinist and Fitters
  • Asbestos Removal Specialist
  • Miners

The National Data Set for Compensation-based Statistics (NDS) keeps track of workers’ compensation claims involving work-released diseases. According to Alert Force of Australia between 2008 and 2011, the National Data Set for Compensation based Statistics found, “63% of compensated mesothelioma claims and 73% of compensated asbestosis claims were made by tradespersons and laborers.” 

Occupational exposure to asbestos is a global issue. Since the discovery of the link between mesothelioma and asbestos bans and strict regulations have been implemented to limit one’s exposure to asbestos. However, the past exposure decades also placed many workers in danger of later developing mesothelioma. According to a press release from Cambodia, “[a]sbestos is the leading cause of death of all occupational disease in the world accounting for almost half of all occupational cancers according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

There are six varieties of asbestos, but the most common type is called chrysotile (white) asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos has been recognized for its strength and resilience, but the exposure of the fiber to humans can also cause a range of cancers. For this reason, nearly 70 countries have already banned all types of asbestos.”

Since asbestos is exceptionally fibrous, the microscopic fibers can be ingested or inhaled and become trapped in the lungs. Studies have shown that any exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma. However, one’s chances increase from prolonged exposure to the carcinogen. The risks of developing mesothelioma vary from one’s exposure to asbestos depending on:  

  • The length of time and frequency of an individual’s exposure to asbestos 
  • The volume of asbestos fibers inhaled or ingested
  • Period of time since the individual was exposed 
  • Age of the person when they were exposed 
  • The type of asbestos fiber person was exposed to

There are other risks of developing mesothelioma depending on the circumstances, but they all have one thing in common, asbestos. This was especially true in transport workers. 

According to a source, “[o]ne in 10 retired carpenters in Australia and the UK will die of asbestos-related cancers according to visiting cancer expert Professor Julian Petro, Head of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology and Genetics Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.” Professor Julian Petro asserts that it is increasing across the globe. Additionally, the source provides that, “[r]ising trends show the death-rate in men who are now 40 will be 100 times higher by age 80. This is the basis for Professor Petro’s predictions of world-wide death-rates over the next 40 years.”

Mr. Pugh worked for Blue Mountains Council on the city’s gardens and parks for 35 years. Asbestos has been found in soil, which poses a risk for gardeners in the workplace and at home. Asbestos is only a hazard when inhaled or ingested. Asbestos contaminated soil is relatively safe if it is properly managed. 

Recently, a new safety campaign in New South Wales is warning construction workers and builders to be on high alert because asbestos could be hiding in more places than expected. Arminda Ryan is the PA Acting Executive Director of Hazardous Incidents and Environmental Health and urged workers and consumers to be “extra vigilant” of hidden asbestos. Ryan stated in an interview with Inside Construction (IC) that, “… you can’t always tell what products contain asbestos just by looking at them … it can be hard to tell the difference between products with and without asbestos as some companies manufactured identical-looking products after the asbestos ban.”

Real Estate agents also face an occupational risk in Australia. The Australian Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) states that roughly one-third of all homes in the country contain asbestos products and asbestos-containing materials. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency recommends that property managers be aware of the house they are responsible for and if it contains asbestos as to protect not only the agent of property manager but also to safeguard any potential tenants or buyers. 

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency recommends that all real estate agents, property managers, and homeowners get an asbestos survey of the property. The agency expresses that this is pertinent to locate and identify any asbestos present and if it needs to be removed or remedied in any way. 

Mesothelioma in New South Wales

The Cancer Institute of New South Wales has gathered incidence and mortality data of mesothelioma up until 2015. The Cancer Institute of New South Wales reported approximately 244 new cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed in New South Wales. Of those 244, 191 were males, and 53 were females. As of 2015, the statistics provided that in 2015 1 in 252 people in New South Wales will receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma by the age of 85. Lastly, the Cancer Institute of New South Wales reported that Mesothelioma accounted for 0.6% of all cancer diagnoses in New South Wales. 

The actual mortality rate for mesothelioma in 2015 totaled 214 deaths from mesothelioma in New South Wales. Of the 214 deaths, 173 were males, and 41 were females. According to the statistics, the Cancer Institute of New South Wales reported, “[m]esothelioma accounted for 1.5% of all cancer deaths in New South Wales.

The Cancer Institute of New South Wales also provided data on the survival rate. It found that in mesothelioma cases from 1995 to 1999, that 5.2% of patients with mesothelioma in New South Wales survived five years after their mesothelioma diagnosis. The percentage of patients surviving one year after being diagnosed with mesothelioma was 36.6 % in males and 40.9% in females in New South Wales.

The survival rate nearly doubled from those diagnosed with mesothelioma from 2000-2004. The data shows that 10% of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in New South Wales survived the five years after their diagnosis. The percentage of patients surviving one year after being diagnosed with mesothelioma was 44% in males and 39.8% in females in New South Wales.

The patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2005 through 2009 displayed a 10.5% survival rate in patients with mesothelioma in New South Wales five years after their diagnosis. Lastly, the percentage of patients surviving one year throughout 2005 and 2009 was 46% males and 49.4% of females in New South Wales.

Environmental Exposure from the Mines in Western Australia 

New South Wales was Australia’s first state to mine asbestos and, in turn, produced the largest amount of asbestos. Unfortunately, it holds the highest number of Australian deaths from mesothelioma. The number of mesothelioma cases nearly doubled between 1987 and 2006. According to a source, “[t]here were approximately 7,000 people working at the mine in Wittenoom from 1930 to 1966, and about 10% will die or have died from mesothelioma. Although the town was removed from the map and the power supply was cut, a handful of residents still remain in the town.”

Studies have also revealed environmental exposures in Western Australia among people living near crocidolite mining zones. One study examined 16 groups related to studies of asbestos and cancer of the pharynx. The study found a standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for cancer of the pharynx, “… of 1.88 (95%CI: 1.15–3.07; based on 16 deaths) in a cohort of 5685 crocidolite asbestos miners and millers in Western Australia.” 

In 2008, a study described a cancer mortality in a group of 2,552 women and girls who lived in the town of Wittenoom in Western Australia. The town was known as a crocidolite asbestos mining and milling town from 1934 through 1992. The dust in the area was broad and contaminated the air, leading to environmental exposure. In this study, nine women lost their lives to ovarian cancer.  

Environmental contamination of the town of Wittennoom in Western Australia with asbestos dust is reported to have been widespread and extensive. The women’s exposure was environmental and not occupational. There were nine deaths from ovarian cancer in this cohort (SMR, 1.26; 95%CI: 0.58–2.40). Additionally, the study provided that, “[a]mong community residents, ten incident cases of ovarian cancer were observed (SIR, 1.18; 95%CI: 0.45–1.91). Among women workers employed in the asbestos factory, one case of ovarian cancer was observed (SIR, 0.49; 95%CI: 0.01–2.74).”

Interestingly, even though the cancers were diagnosed as “ovarian cancer” in this study cohort, the research provides that instead of ovarian cancer, it may have actually been cases of peritoneal mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdomen. It is the result of the ingestion of microscopic asbestos fibers. 

To address the possibility that some diagnosed cases of ovarian cancer in this cohort might, in fact, have been cases of peritoneal mesothelioma. However, the scientist examined pathological material from nine of their case studies and found that the ovarian cancer diagnosis was sustained in all of the cases.

According to a source, “[t]he legacy of the mining of asbestos, and the manufacture and use of asbestos products, has seen Australians pay a heavy price – in terms of death and disability – from the first two waves of asbestos exposure and resulting disease.”

When the mine in Wittenoom closed in 1966, they left behind three million tons of asbestos tailings. The Elders are pushing for the asbestos tailings in the Wittennoom Gorge be removed and cleaned up. The Wittenoom Gorge is located on the boundary of Pilibara’s Karijini National Park. The area is supposed to be closed to the public, but it is still easily accessible where exposure is a genuine risk. The gorge attracts tourists and locals. Aboriginal families fish and swim in the waterhole just a short distance from where the tailings stream. According to a news story in 2019, “[a]lmost all Banjima country has been lost to pastoral and mining leases or to Karijini National Park, and Wittenoom Gorge is one of the few places in this blisteringly hot, parched landscape where they can cool off.”

The elders have pleas have fallen on deaf ears as they have fought for the cleaning of the gorge for decades. A 1994 report commissioned by the West Australian Liberal government called the contamination “disgraceful” even by today’s standards. Over twelve years later, another report was commissioned by the Labor state government and cautioned that both tourist and Aboriginal people were at a significant risk of exposure to asbestos.  

According to a source, the report found that “rain and erosion had significantly spread the asbestos, contaminating creeks that flow into the Fortescue River catchment. The report warned this would only get worse and strongly recommended the asbestos tailings dumps be cleaned up or stabilized, and that the road into the gorge be removed.”

Australia Completely Banned Asbestos in 2003

Asbestos was officially banned in Australia on December 31, 2003. All products containing asbestos were banned throughout the entire country, making it illegal to sell, supply, install, import, use, or re-use such materials. Almost twenty years since Australia altogether banned asbestos, and the country is still facing public policy issues. For example, in 2017, the Australian Senate stated in an Interim Report of the Economic Reference Committee, “[A]sbestos safety is a complex policy and operational area that requires coordinated efforts on a national scale. As such, a number of Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies have responsibilities for monitoring asbestos across a range of areas including; workplace safety, border protection, environmental protection, public health, and consumer safety.” 

Although the ban prohibits the use, reuse, and reselling of any type of asbestos, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency of Australia (ASEA) contends that the country has been left with the burden of past consumption and many asbestos-containing materials still standing today. According to a source, the primary concern is, “…in the built environment, which means the risk of exposure to asbestos continues and affects not only workers, but also the general population. ‘The entire Australian population is exposed to background levels of asbestos with significantly lower fiber concentrations on average,’ says the ASEA.”

Dr. Lynelle Moon, an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare spokesperson stated, “[b]efore being banned in Australia in 2004, asbestos was used in more than 3,000 products in the construction industry, in industrial plants and equipment, and in ships, trains and cars.” She further expressed that in 2017 over 700 Australians were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Men had the highest incidence rate at 592. Dr. Moon explained the high difference as being “…largely due to the higher proportion of males working in industries where asbestos exposure may have occurred in the past, such as construction.”

The highest incidence rates of mesothelioma were found in Western Australia, accounting for 4.9 mesothelioma cases diagnosed for every 100,000 people. The lowest incidence rate was in Tasmania with around 1.5 mesothelioma cases per 100,000 people. These numbers from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry, which started allocating data in 2010.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency of Australia (ASEA)

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency of Australia (ASEA) is a statutory authority established in 2013. was established to support a nationwide emphasis on asbestos problems that encompass workplace safety, environmental exposure, and public health and safety issues. To date, Australia is the only country in the world to develop such an agency. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency will focus on coordinating, monitoring, and reporting on the incorporation of the National Strategic Plan on Asbestos Awareness and Management.

The National Strategic Plan offers a thorough and complete framework for raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and overseeing and managing asbestos-containing materials. The plan includes six crucial strategies: 

  1. Awareness – increase public awareness of the occupational and environmental risk posed by working with or being exposed to the toxin.
  2. Best Practice – pinpoint and expand the best practices in the management of asbestos, transport, disposal, storage, and education.
  3. Identification – develop the grading and identification of grading asbestos.
  4. Removal – prioritize areas that demonstrate a present risk, identify the safe remediation and removal of asbestos. 
  5. Research – Promote, commission, and supervise research related to the exposure and prevention of asbestos-related illnesses.
  6. International Cooperation – Australia seeks to lead a global asbestos ban campaign on the mining and manufacturing of asbestos[1]

In 2017, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency released two crucial reports at the annual summit expressing the country’s movement towards Australia being asbestos free. The first document was “The Progress Report,” which emphasized a string of case studies demonstrating how the effort supporting the National Strategic Plan performed. The second document was the first of Australia’s kind known as the National Asbestos Profile. 

According to Alert Force, “[t]he Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency says the profile follows the template developed by the World Health Organization and International Labor Organization and draws on best available research and data sources to provide a historical perspective on past exposures to asbestos, as well as information on the current management of asbestos in Australia.” 

Australia’s National Asbestos Profile offers vital information on the ingestion and inhalation of asbestos and the populations at risk from not only current asbestos exposure, but past exposure as well. The National Asbestos Profile also provides an organized system for inspection and limits on exposure to the carcinogen. Further, Australia’s National Asbestos Profile extends to provide the economic and social burdens of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.    

Cases of mesothelioma have continued to increase since 2003, making it the highest reported national rate in the world. An earlier study reported that Western Australia had the highest incident rate in 1999 at 47.7%. The largest number of cases came from two of the most populated eastern states in Australia: New South Wales and Victoria. 

According to a source, “[i]n 88% of cases (male 90%, female 61%), histories of asbestos exposures were obtained. In 80% of cases with no history of exposure, TEM lung asbestos fiber counts > 200,000 fibers > 2 microm length/g dry lung were obtained, suggesting unrecognized exposure. Australia’s high incidence rate of mesothelioma is related to high past asbestos use, of all fiber types, in a wide variety of settings. The number of cases is expected to be about 18,000 by 2020, with about 11,000 yet to appear.” 

The Australian Government has expressed essential research questions to be addressed in the future as it relates to “third-wave” exposure to asbestos. Some of the research topics include ambient exposure, home repair, and renovations (DIY), asbestos in situ, asbestos exposure in relation to a disaster (fire, storms, earthquakes, and asbestos in soil.

Blue Mountains City Council’s Long History of Asbestos Scandals, Mismanagement, and Misconduct 

The misconduct of Blue Mountains City Council has been investigated and reported by 2GB’s Ray Hadley over the past several years. Ray Hadley has been instrumental in exposing the truth behind the threats posed by asbestos and the cover-ups by the council pointing to sheer and dangerous misconduct. 

Allegations surfaced in 2017 against the Blue Mountains City Council, suggesting the council had knowledge about asbestos in numerous locations, including two preschools. The claims alleged that between March of 2014 and November of 2015 that the Blue Mountains City Council obtained three asbestos audits that revealed asbestos contamination in over 100 of the council’s buildings and work sites. 

In response, the Safe Work New South Wales inspectors issued Blue Mountains City Council with notices to asbestos found in the following locations:

  • Council-owned preschool building Wentworth Falls Kindergarten Preschool and a preschool in Katoomba
  • Lawson and Katoomba waste piles at council depots
  • Buildings located in the council’s Springwood Depot
  • Lawson library 
  • Warrimoo Citizen’s Hall
  • Heatherbrae Cottage in Lawson

In 2014, Wentworth Falls Kindergarten Preschool was found to have had alarming amounts of asbestos materials found inside and outside of the building. Even with those findings, no action was taken. According to a source, Gabrielle Upton, the Local Government Minister, that the allegations were being investigated.

Ray Hadley, of 2GB’s radio station, interviewed Upton, who stated, “Today we have a senior investigator who is going to council to further gather the evidence so that we can make sure the seriousness is met with a consequence. It would seem to indicate there will be incredibly serious consequences for those involved.”

Ray Hadley’s investigative team contacted Adena Jurd, Wentworth Falls Preschool Kindergarten’s director. They informed her that the certificate provided by Blue Mountains City Council did not apply to the large and voluminous asbestos found inside and outside of the preschool based on the findings in an audit performed by Air Safe in 2014. 

Ms. Jurd asserted that the asbestos certificate she was provided with by the council cleared the entire facility. According to a source, “…the council only removed and sealed off asbestos material from a small area on the eave outside the school.” Furious parents contacted the Ray Hadley Morning Show after the story broke. The parents were shocked and angry that their children were exposed to asbestos and feared the consequences.

Ray Hadley also uncovered shocking audio from a Blue Mountains City Council Meeting on November 14, 2017. Mark Greenhill, mayor of Blue Mountains, blatantly dismissed dismiss another council member’s grave concerns of asbestos and risks of exposure affecting public safety. 

According to the audio published by Ray Hadley, Councilor Kerry Brown raised genuine and credible issues about asbestos in the area claiming that the work health and safety had not been performing on the level it should be. Ray Hadley reported that “Mayor Mark Greenhill jumps in, shutting down talks about asbestos because ‘it is on the public record’ further stating on the audio “Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah. Stop right now, don’t say another word.”

Later in 2017, Safe Work New South Wales issued more notices to a preschool owned by a council member an a recycle depot. The preschool was issued two notices of improvement after asbestos fragments were discovered in on the back of the property. Two improvement notices were also issued to Springwood Recycling Depot after finding damaged asbestos materials. 

Serious asbestos threats hit in 2017 at Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospital even though the first trace of asbestos had already been discovered over 20 years ago. Ray Hadley reported, “[p]riority one, disintegrating asbestos has been found in the women’s and children’s ward, the child assessment and development unit and medical imaging among other locations.” Additionally, he stated, “…it comes as Safe Work NSW launches a full investigation into asbestos cover-ups by the Blue Mountains City Council, with 17 improvement notices and four prohibition notices issued so far.”

The scandal forced Matt Kean, the Better Regulation Minister to order Safe Work to launch a “full investigation into the asbestos management practices of Blue Mountains City Council.” 

Following Ray Hadley’s campaign and findings, the New South Wales Government issued a notice of intent to suspend the Blue Mountains City Council. Gabrielle Upton, Local Government Minister, provided the council seven days to respond, or he would appoint an interim administer. Upton told Ray Hadley, “I am concerned the council is not functioning effectively following the volume and scope of recent regulatory notices issued by SafeWork NSW and the Environment Protection Authority, including SafeWork’s decision to launch a full investigation into the council’s management of asbestos.”

Councilor Brown, who has been fighting for change and reform in the council’s asbestos management plan, stated, “I think the councilors are finally beginning to understand we are the governing body… ultimately the buck stops with us.” Mayor Mark Greenhill was also caught on audio, stating that this was all a “political stunt.” 

Shortly after Local Government Minister Upton issued her notice of intent to suspend Blue Mountains’ City Council, she revoked her suspension notice and decided to give the council another chance. Upton’s decision prompted uproar from the community. According to a source, Ray called for New South Wales Minister for the Environment and Local Government to step down and be replaced “…over her disastrous handling of the Return & Earn Scheme and for backflipping on her decision to suspend Blue Mountains City Council.” 

In early 2018, the asbestos scandal began to worsen. The residents reported that they felt abandoned and discouraged after learning the Blue Mountains City Council did not report asbestos material to Safe Work New South Wales two weeks after it was first found. Matt Kean, the Minister for Better Regulation, voiced his concerns and called the Blue Mountain City Council’s management of asbestos “reprehensible.” 

Mr. Kean expressed that his confidence in the council was at an all-time low. Mr. Kean told Ray Hadley, “ [The Council] has had Safe Work crawling over their site… yet they failed to inform the regulator of another find of asbestos. It’s totally irresponsible.”

Weeks after the inspectors were sent to the site, and despite the numerous notices issued, the workers on site relayed a different story. The workers reported to Mr. Kean that clearance certificates had been issued despite the inspected sealed still containing unsealed asbestos. 

In March of 2018, Safe Work New South Wales announce they would re-inspect the areas that were issued an asbestos clearance certificate. An article describes the council’s failure to inspect the site when it was reported to them was a clear breach of the Performance Improvement Order issued by New South Wales Local Government Gabrielle Upton. 

The council did not act swiftly to the report and took 12 days to respond. According to a source, “[t]he order states the council must ensure ‘there is an adequate mechanism in place which requires the General Manager to take action so that all concerns and instances of possible contravention of relevant Work, Health and Safety, and environmental protection legislation is reported immediately to the relevant regulatory agencies and the Minister.”

The reinspection of the depot mentioned above outraged the community. An Air Safe report was leaked, which revealed that nine of the ten inspected sites tested positive for asbestos. Ray Hadley responded, “It is time there was action taken. She threatened to sack the council then she went weak at the knees, there is clear evidence they have not taken that last opportunity to clean up their act.”

On top of the concealment by the council, the asbestos sealing practices were described as “dodgy.” The asbestos removalist was licensed under the Safe Work New South Wales and was retained by the Blue Mountains City Council to seal asbestos at the depot. However, the removalist did not complete the job properly. This came to light as a photo of a light switch at a building at the depot was provided to Ray Hadley. The picture exposed that asbestos dust was sealed onto the light switch instead of being removed. 

Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton decided to move to suspend Blue Mountains City Council for a second time. This decision came as a result of Ray Hadley’s consistent fight for improved asbestos management. Ms. Upton issued her notice of intent to suspend the council for three months. The council was provided seven days to respond to the notice of intent to suspend. 

The council was eventually granted an injunction against the order filed in the New South Wales Supreme Court, but in June of 2018, it was dismissed on appeal. Ray Hadley commented on the dismissal stating, “It’s a victory for the New South Wales Government against a council which is run by a dope.”

About a year after the asbestos mismanagement and Blue Mountains City Council’s misconduct allegations, the Safe Work New South Wales granted Blue Mountains City Council an asbestos removal license. This was a shock because, in 2014 and 2015, the council supposedly received three audits revealing asbestos contamination in over 100 of the city council’s buildings and work sites.

The drama and scandal surrounding the Blue Mountains City Council poured over into 2019 when video footage was released showing the workers illegally performing asbestos removal and failing to follow safety protocols. Not following protocols and disturbing or removing asbestos can have a negative impact on the public’s health and safety. Worse, it can punch irreversible consequences. Safe Work New South Wales discounted the footage calling it “inconclusive.” 

In December of 2019, Blue Mountains City Council’s CEO, Dr. Rosemary Dillion, announced she is suing Ray Hadley and Macquarie Media for defamation. Dr. Dillion asserts that Hadley claimed she lied during a public inquiry and defamed her in a May 16, 2019 broadcast. The Blue Mountains Gazette reported that Dr. Dillon, “… alleges that her character and reputation have been injured, that she has been brought into public disrepute and that she has suffered loss and damages.”

Overall, after being flooded with years of scandal, misconduct, and mismanagement of asbestos, Safe Work New South Wales filed legal action against Blue Mountains City Council over asbestos crisis and mismanagement claiming the council was liable for eight breaches of the asbestos provisions as required by the Work Health and Safety Regulation of 2011. According to an article published in 2019, “[o]ne such case saw council staff forced to dig up soil at the Lawson Mechanic’s Institute, despite council allegedly knowing it was contaminated with asbestos.” The council responded by claiming that it was a person who was actively engaged in planting asbestos. 

Safe Work New South Wales Rescinds Lawsuit Against Blue Mountains City Council 

In January of 2020, Safe Work New South Wales decided to end its investigation and to withdraw all prosecutions against Blue Mountains City Council over the council’s issues with the handling of asbestos. Alternatively, the Blue Mountains City Council has joined into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with Safe Work New South Wales, which includes a number of legally binding commitments. 

Dr. Dillon told the Blue Mountains Gazette that, “ [i]t will provide a legal framework within which council can implement its continuous safety improvement program to improve safety within the council’s workplaces and within the Blue Mountains community, with benefits for local government organizations across NSW.” She further expressed that nothing matters more than the workforce’s safety. She stated, “I want this council to be recognized as a leader in the field of workplace safety. We want you to work safely and return home safely.”

The Enforceable Undertaking includes the incorporation of five work health and safety strategies that will benefit the council’s community, government sector, and workplace. The five strategies include: 

  • Providing communications technology to field teams that would allow workers to have electronic access to records, registers, policies, and health and safety operating procedures. The communications technology would also allow workers to submit hazard reports, incident reports, and risk assessments.
  • Workplace training which would entail workplace training programs both in person and on an online platform aimed at raising asbestos awareness, Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), and culture.
  • Implementing a People at Work Survey across Blue Mountains City Council’s workforce, which would be built around model made provided by the Queensland Government.
  • Delivering an asbestos management toolkit for New South Wales Councils, which they would integrate into their existing workplace policies and procedures. 
  • Creating a public education campaign to address and offer guidance to the proper disposal of business and household waste. Additionally, the safe disposal of asbestos and toxic substance waste.

The Blue Mountains City Council is taking the Enforceable Undertaking very seriously. According to Safe Work New South Wales, the Enforceable Undertaking has a total expenditure of $513,880.

Blue Mountains City Council Asbestos Management 2020 Plan

The City of Blue Mountains has been faced with many challenges of the dire need to identify and manage asbestos in the workplace, home, and asbestos-containing material. The council asserts that they conduct regular inspections of its public land and facilities to ensure the asbestos materials, if present, are being managed appropriately. The council has conceded that there have been “organizational failures” in the past related to asbestos management.

In 2018, Blue Mountains City Council took substantial steps to address the issue and improve the overall safety of the community. The council appointed a chief safety officer in 2018 to oversee the council’s response to asbestos reports and management of the issue. The council has also provided formal training and comprehensive programs such as the Asbestos Management Training and Awareness Program.

Further, Blue Mountains City Council initiated a 24-hour hotline to improve staff notification of any potential asbestos incidents. The council allocated 4 million towards asbestos remediation and other similar removal procedures. The council introduced the city’s Asbestos Response Team (ART) and launched a multi-agency Asbestos Management Committee. The committee brought in significant stakeholders such as New South Wales Sage Work, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the United Services Union, and the Office of the Local Government. 

National Asbestos Exposure Register

The Australian government established the National Asbestos Registrar (NAER) to document the members of the community who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos. The information is kept confidential, and the information will not be disclosed to a third party without the reporting party’s consent. Members of the public are encouraged to report their potential contact with asbestos. The exposure could be from regular contact with asbestos-containing material (ACM), which includes asbestos cement sheets (ACS) or asbestos cement corrugated roofing material (ACCRM). 

Australia’s Mesothelioma Surveillance Programs

Since the 1980s, Australia has made substantial investments in gathering asbestos exposure data from individuals diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The first system was the Australian Mesothelioma Surveillance Program that ran from 1980 to 1985. The next program was called the Australia Mesothelioma Register, which ran from 1986 to 2007. Australia’s current surveillance program was established in 2010, named the Australia Mesothelioma Registry. 

According to a source, the Australian Registry aims to accomplish three main goals[2]

  • Better understand the relationship between asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma.
  • Identify the circumstances under which groups of individuals are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of asbestos and to facilitate prevention.
  • Assist the development of policies to best deal with the asbestos still present in our environment.

One of the methods used for obtaining data related to asbestos exposure and the development of malignant mesothelioma was from consenting patients who were well enough to provide their consent at the time they were asked to participate. The consenting patient was presented with a questionnaire related to his or her exposure history to asbestos. 

Based upon the patient’s responses, a customized telephone interview was conducted through a phone interview utilizing a web-based application called OccIDEAS. The questionnaire asked the participant about workplace exposure and potential environmental exposure. The questions also centered around potential exposure due to home renovations or secondhand exposure to asbestos. Secondhand exposure or “take-home” exposure occurs when asbestos fibers cling to the clothing or other material and are brought home, causing such secondary exposure to others in the house. 

The web-based application in OCCIDEAS used an assessment algorithm to determine the likelihood of asbestos exposure in both occupational and non-occupational settings. The study noted that “[i]n terms of asbestos exposure in the wider context, van Oyen and colleagues estimated asbestos exposures for 537 combinations of 224 occupations and 60 industries for four time periods between 1943 and 2003. The highest average asbestos exposures were thought to have occurred in the shipyard, insulation, and asbestos manufacturing industries. Forty-six combinations of occupation and industry categories were considered by the researchers to have had exposures exceeding the current Australian exposure standard (0.1 fiber/milliliter).”

Other forms of data collection were also promogulated. One, in particular, was championed in 2008 when a mail survey was sent to 10,000 adults found on the New South Wales Electoral Roll. The data produced found that “…37.5% of whom gave information, 24% reported having done DIY (do it yourself) home renovations. Of these, 61% reported asbestos exposure during the renovation, ranging from contact with asbestos cement sheeting (96% of those reporting asbestos exposure) to contact with asbestos insulation (14%; loose-fill asbestos insulation, mainly amosite, was used in some Australian houses) and cutting (54%), drilling (41%) or sanding (19%) asbestos building materials. A total of 20% of participants reported other home renovations, of whom only 3% reported asbestos exposure.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) stated that two new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each day in Australia. Moreover, mesothelioma has one of the most inferior survival rates of any cancer. 

Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Awareness Campaigns

Australia will continue to battle the risks from asbestos exposure and the development of an asbestos-related disease. Australia’s Asbestos Awareness Campaign was established in 2012 to raise awareness of workplace hazards and dangers of asbestos. One of the most notable and successful campaigns is the Betty House. It serves as a community awareness initiative from the Asbestos Education Committee partnered with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI). 

The Betty House is a mobile unit that can be driven to different locations to engage various communities and educate them about where asbestos can be found in the home. The Betty House is interactive and offers audiovisual materials of asbestos-containing materials and where in the home they are most commonly found. 

The Betty House has had a significant impact on the country and has raised awareness and partnered with local media sites to ensure a large turnout. According to a source, “Betty’s mission is to educate all Australians about the dangers of asbestos, so they think smart, think safe, think asbestosawareness.com.au, because it’s not worth the risk!”

Australia’s Dust Disease Task Force

The Australian Government created a National Dust Disease Taskforce to establish a national approach for the early identification, prevention, and control of dust diseases in Australia. The Australian Government has dedicated five million dollars to the task force to support its measures.

Workers can also apply for Dust Diseases care and compensation through the icare platform. There are two types of applications one is a request for a medical examination and an application for compensation. The application is free. There are certain criteria to determine if an individual is eligible for care or compensation. A few requirements include:

  • A worker who has been formally diagnosed with a dust disease through their employment at a New South Wales workplace.
  • A dependent of a deceased worker diagnosed with a dust disease who was not receiving any compensation at the time of their death.
  • An authorized representative, family member, or caregiver who is acting on behalf of the worker diagnosed with a dust disease. 

There are other forms of compensation available to workers and their loved ones. The Wrongs Act was implemented in 1958 and allowed for complete compensation to anyone who lost income as a result of someone becoming sick after asbestos exposure in the workplace. In 2006 the act was amended and extended the right to compensation to those who experienced secondhand exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma is responsible for nearly 700 deaths per year in Australia. Considering all asbestos-related illnesses, that number increases and claims over 4,000 lives per year. A source provides a breakdown for the number of asbestos-related deaths per year in Australia: 

  • 766 Mesothelioma. 
  • 3,017 Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
  • 140 Asbestos-Related Ovarian Cancers
  • 48 Laryngeal Cancers
  • 77 Asbestosis

Australia and the Coronavirus 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has become a worldwide pandemic. To date, there have been 368 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia. The first case was confirmed on January 25, 2020, when in New South Wales and Victoria confirmed Australia’s first four coronavirus cases. Individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma are especially vulnerable to catching the coronavirus. A virus of this nature could wreak havoc on one’s lungs. Mesothelioma patients should take extra precautions and protect themselves at all costs.

According to The Guardian, “[t]he virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.” 

Patients with pleural mesothelioma are especially vulnerable to the virus. Pleural mesothelioma is mesothelioma of the lungs. Contracting coronavirus can lead to a poor prognosis, even death. The virus is transmitted from human-to-human. The John Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering reported that as of March 16, 2020, more than 181,377 people have been infected in more than 80 countries.The coronavirus has claimed 7,119 deaths to date. There have been 78,085 reported recoveries from the virus. 

Every state and territory in Australia has confirmed at least one case of coronavirus. New South Wales has the highest number of coronavirus cases, making up more than 46% of the total number of coronavirus infections, followed by Victoria, then Queensland.

Many countries have enacted social distancing policies. Social distancing is extremely important for mesothelioma patients. The recommendations dissuade people from forming in large groups. Agencies also recommend standing at least six feet apart from one another to prevent spreading the virus. According to the American Cancer Society, “[p]eople with cancer may have a higher risk of infection because of changes in the immune system that control their body’s defense systems. Cancer and cancer treatments can affect the immune system and other body systems in different ways.”

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is produced by the virus SARS-CoV2. It is a “novel,” meaning a new form of the virus. Humans have not had the opportunity to build an immunity to SARS-CoV2. Therefore, the new virus is likely to make them sick. Mesothelioma patients will likely have a substantially lower resistance to the virus. Since the coronavirus is a respiratory illness, it can make pleural mesothelioma even worse, leading to pneumonia or other life-threatening condition. 

Sometimes isolation can be difficult for mesothelioma patients, making social distancing difficult. Studies on isolation and mesothelioma have provided that patients who feel isolated typically have poorer outcomes than those who feel supported. Caregivers should practice good hygiene by washing their hands for at least 20 seconds and clean surfaces that could hold germs. 

According to the American Cancer Society, “[t]he CDC and WHO say that based on the cases they’ve seen so far in China, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk for serious complications if they are infected with this new virus. The CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) Dr. Nancy Messonnier says the same people who are at higher risk of serious illness from seasonal flu are at greater risk, should they get infected with this new coronavirus. This includes people with chronic heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and conditions that might weaken the immune system. Cancer patients often have weakened immune systems too.”

A positive alternative to in-person visiting is through online visits and remote support groups. This method provides a safe way for mesothelioma patients to stay connected with their loved ones, healthcare providers during this time. The need for social distancing is necessary for mesothelioma patients. Social distancing reduces the spread of the virus and can also keep cancer patients healthier without any avoidable complications.  

Blue Mountains City Council’s Commitment to Honoring Morris Pugh

Dr. Rosemary Dillon, Blue Mountains City Council’s Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We are extremely saddened by the news of the passing of Mr. Pugh and have offered Council’s sincere condolences to his family. While it is impossible to pinpoint where, when and exactly how Mr. Pugh contracted the disease, the fact is he was a former employee and we care for him.”

Blue Mountains City Council plans to tackle the issues of asbestos and asbestos-related illnesses within their community. The allegations of the council’s misconduct, especially in asbestos management, has ignited community awareness and pushed for immediate reforms to address the pressing asbestos issue. Mr. Pugh’s dying wish has made a lasting impact on the Blue Mountains and is sure to raise awareness and lead to early detection of any potential asbestos-related illness.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5858453/#B15-ijerph-15-00384

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5858453/

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