Asbestos-related diseases - the need for more surveillance and action

The World Health Organisation Global and Regional Burden of Disease study stated about 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace and in 2004, asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) from occupational exposures resulted in over 107,000 deaths worldwide. Most countries around the world do not track or report disease diagnoses or deaths as a result of exposure to asbestos in an occupational setting, let alone its impact on workers families and their communities. There is a pressing need to gather credible statistical information on ARDs by national governments across the world in order to determine the true impact of ARDs on their citizens. There are 700 deaths on average from mesothelioma and approximately 700 new diagnoses of mesothelioma per year in Australia yet the true number of deaths per year from all asbestos-related diseases is estimated to be 1,500 to 2,000 per year in Australia. The Australian Government established the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency in 2013 to deliver the National Strategic Plan on Asbestos Management and Awareness to deal with the enormous legacy issues and ARDs as a result of decades of asbestos use. The agency will be embarking on a national media campaign to raise levels of awareness about the risks of asbestos and to effect behaviour change in the community. The goal of a worldwide ban on asbestos mining and manufacturing and prevention of asbestos-related diseases can only start with gathering the evidence that asbestos causes deaths and that these deaths are preventable.

Peter Tighe

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency

Peter Tighe was appointed Chief Executive Officer in August 2013 for a period of five years. Peter was National Secretary of the Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union fromt 1995 to 2013 and was also National Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union and Executive Member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions from 1991 to 2013. Mr Tighe was also chair of EE-Oz Energy Skills Australia, E-Profiling Pty Ltd, the National Electrical and Electronic Industry Training Council and trustee/board member of CBUS Superannuation. Mr Tighe has extensive experience in workplace health and safety issues and in tackling the hazards of asbestos containing materials.