Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in New Zealand. The government estimates that 170 deaths occur a year from asbestos-related diseases in New Zealand and that this will rise to over 300 as the results of the ‘asbestos boom’ of the 1970s take their toll. That’s as many as the current road toll. Even 170 is double the number of workplace deaths per year from injury – which itself is far too high, several times other countries such as the U.K. and Australia. These conditions are irreversible and the treatment options are only palliative.
According to the World Health Organisation, no level of exposure to asbestos is safe, and this has been known at least since a declaration by the World Health Organisation in 1986. The World Health Organisation says that “the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos”.
Asbestos fibres, once breathed in, can stay in your body for decades before signs of disease show. Asbestos can cause serious diseases including asbestosis, pleural thickening, mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx and ovary, anything from 10 to 50 years after exposure to it.
Ask any nurse who works with patients suffering from the diseases caused by asbestos and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that we must get rid of it, now!
That’s not going to happen overnight but in the meantime, we must have much better protection and training for people working with asbestos or who might be exposed to it.
We urgently need to ban the import, supply and new use of any products containing asbestos; and create and implement a plan to eradicate asbestos from the built environment by no later than 2030.
The NZ Council of Trade Unions is leading the work to achieve a ban and a plan for asbestos, and we wholeheartedly support the campaign. A healthy New Zealand can only happen when we take action against to stop preventable illness and death.
Please take a moment to sign and share the petition to ban asbestos and implement a plan to remove it from our environment.