A deadly corporation

Matt Peacock

Right now, Australia's in the grip of a silent epidemic.

It's an epidemic of the most painful and deadliest cancer you can imagine. It's a thin, near-invisible, sheet-like cancer that can lurk in your body for ten, twenty, forty years or more, before it suddenly spreads out, to wrap itself around your vital organs and squeeze you to death within months.

It strikes people from ALL walks of life.

Judges, journalists, carpenters, cooks, housewives, handymen, electricians, builders, plumbers, surgeons, nurses, teachers ... you name them, it's killed them.

We have more of these cancers per head of population than any other country in the world.

Yet they were entirely preventable.

These days, most people who develop this cancer never had the faintest idea that they would. It often starts with a back pain. You feel off colour, tired. You get thinner. You have tests. Generally, the doctor doesn't identify it first time around, unless you're only months from death.

Then you are told its name. 'Mesothelioma.' Most people have to practice how to say the word. 'Meso-thelioma.'

Imagine how you feel!

'That's what Bernie Banton had, wasn't it? Don't you have to work with asbestos to get that? I've never worked at an asbestos factory. I've never been near Wittenoom, or Baryulgil, or Barraba, where they mined the stuff!'

But then you're told you don't have to. In fact, most people who get mesothelioma these days got it from asbestos exposure they were hardly aware of.

It could have been a sheet of asbestos cement under their bathroom floor that their father sawed. It could have been sprayed on that office ceiling, or in the insulation wrapped around those hot pipes, or the fibro under the roof eaves, or the fence, or the sewerage pipes, or the garden shed ... even your driveway, or the local oval where the waste was dumped.

It could even have been under your carpet - underfelt, made from the shredded asbestos bags that leaked death everywhere they went.

Wharfies on the docks, who slung the bags over their shoulders, unloading them from the ships. Truck drivers, who loaded their trucks and drove them to the factories.

Bag recyclers who picked them up when they'd been emptied, shook them out, and resold them to the fruit sellers at Victoria markets.

Queensland farmers who wrapped bunches of banana in them. Western Australia wheat farmers who got their superphosphate in them.

We've probably all ripped up carpet somewhere along our lives. The most damaged Hessian bags went straight into the shredder without cleaning, turned into underfelt with all the asbestos still left intact.Imagine the dust when you rip it up. The potentially lethal dust.

This is not a disease restricted to miners and factory workers. It's a disease that affects us all, more than any other people in the world.

And yet it's hardly talked about.

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