Asbestos; mesothelioma [Photograph]. Encyclopedia Britannica Online Library Edition. Retrieved 26 June 2013, from

A recent article in The Age has examined a ‘third wave’ of victims who have developed malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos.[i] At first it appeared that only the miners and wharfies were affected by this scourge – then tradespeople [ii] started to develop asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos fibres. Now medical specialists are seeing a new wave of sufferers – ‘the bystanders’, such as women who may have washed their husband’s asbestos dust-laden overalls decades earlier. [iii]

Asbestos, named from the ancient Greek word for ‘inextinguishable’, was touted as the ‘wonder material’ of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and used extensively in Australian buildings between 1945 and 1980.[iv]  As a material, it was cheap, strong and heat resistant, and its versatility resulted in it being used in over 3000 products, including insulation, carpet underlay, brake linings, roof tiles and cement sheeting.[v]

Mesothelioma, one of the cancers arising from exposure to asbestos fibres, can take up to 20-40 years to develop.[vi] Many people who develop mesothelioma do not experience any noticable symptoms for a long period of time.[vii] Early signs of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • trouble breathing
  • long-lasting cough and pain under the rib cage or in the abdomen
  • pain while breathing
  • weight loss [viii]

To read the article in The Age, login with your library card’s barcode to EBSCOhost’s Australian and New Zealand Reference Centre, and to read more about mesothelioma login to Consumer Health Complete or Britannica database.


[i] Schmidt, L. 2013, ‘Still breathing the devil’s dust’, Age, The (Melbourne), 19 June, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 19 June 2013.

[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Smith, N. 2013, Pleural Mesothelioma’, Conditions and Procedures in Brief [report], Consumer Health Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 21 June, 2013.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Ibid.

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