Asbestos-related diseases on the rise in Muswellbrook

A LAWYER who once acted for the late asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton is concerned about Liddell Power Station’s “health” legacy on the people of Muswellbrook.

So troubled by the plant’s “hangover”, and the amount of fibro houses still in town, Tanya Segelov, from Segelov Taylor Lawyers, will meet with locals to discuss the issue at the Muswellbrook RSL Club on December 12.

Mr Banton died from asbestos-related diseases in November, 2007.

The 61-year-old crusader had suffered from the lung condition, asbestosis, and asbestos-related pleural disease (ARPD), as well as the virulent stomach cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma.

All three of his conditions were caused by previous exposure to asbestos, after working at a James Hardie plant during the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr Banton and his mini-oxygen tank would later become synonymous with claims for compensation from the company for thousands of asbestos victims, including a $4 billion deal.

Now, Ms Segelov is acting for several Muswellbrook residents with similar diseases.

“Over the past few months I have made a number of trips to town,” she said.

“That’s why we have decided to spend a day up there [to talk to more people].

“There are two groups primarily affected: workers and the ‘third wave victim’ or bystanders.

“Asbestos is a big issue in the community, especially among the elderly.

“Plus, people are living longer – they’re only being diagnosed now.

“Asbestos diseases have a latency period of 20-40 years, which means that we are seeing them get sick from their work in the 1970s and 1980s.

“This includes employees at the Liddell Power Station, which was full of asbestos. 

“People find themselves short of breath; then it gets worse.

“In the end, they struggle to leave their homes.

“There are also a growing number of residents being diagnosed with mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lung caused only by exposure to asbestos) as a result of home building and renovation work.

“Regrettably, there’s no threshold of exposure for mesothelioma.

“This means you can have a very small exposure (a few hours) while cutting, drilling or sanding fibro sheets – and 20-40 years later contract the disease. 

“Driving around Muswellbrook, I saw a lot of fibro still there.

“That’s a real danger – and people don’t realise it.”

Ms Segelov, a council member of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency from 2013-2016, said Muswellbrook District Hospital was also a possible “hot spot”.

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” she admitted.

“A lot of hospitals built before 1984 were full of it [asbestos].

“It’s quite prevalent in a community [like Muswellbrook].

“Unfortunately, regional towns such as Muswellbrook face additional issues in relation to availability of asbestos removal services and dumps that will take asbestos waste.”