Deadly asbestos diseases going undiagnosed in the NT

Asbestos Disease Support Society in Northern Territory

DEADLY asbestos-related illnesses are likely going undiagnosed in the Northern Territory despite the widespread use of the cancer-causing material, the Asbestos Disease Support Society has warned.

ADSS QLD/NT chairman Andrew Ramsay said there was officially only one death attributable to asbestos in the NT last year, compared with up to 200 in Queensland over the same period.

“It doesn’t add up because I know from travelling around here in my former job (as a carpenter), out to Aboriginal communities and whatever and just general knowledge of the Territory – there’s a lot more asbestos-containing materials lying around than what there is in Queensland and yet there’s no numbers,” he said.

“It’s like there’s no diagnosis being done up here on the disease.”

As a percentage of population, the difference amounts to roughly 10 times as many deaths in Queensland compared to the NT.

Mr Ramsay said the Territory’s transient population and misdiagnosis by clinicians could be contributing to the statistical anomaly.

ADSS chairman Andrew Ramsay with Ron
Parap resident Ron Anderson, who contracted an asbestos related disease while renovating his friend’s home in Sydney, at a meeting of the Asbestos Disease Support Society QLD/NT with chairman Andrew Ramsay at Palmerston Sports Club on Monday, August 13, 2018.
Picture: Keri Megelus

“We had the same problem in Queensland and NSW and all the other states – not blaming the doctors – but the doctors used to ask the first question ‘Do you smoke?’ and if the patient said ‘Yes’ it was ‘OK that’s why you’ve got lung cancer’, (but) if you mix smoking and asbestos exposure together you win the raffle normally,” he said.

ADSS established its NT chapter about a year ago but Mr Ramsay said the group was now pushing for more awareness among sufferers that support was available.

“We’re trying full-on now to get people aware that if they do have someone, themselves or someone they know, who is diagnosed with asbestos disease or think they might have it … they can give us a call and we can advise them where to go,” he said.

The NT Health Department was contacted for comment but did not respond by deadline yesterday.

Article originally appeared in NT News on 14 August, 2018.

Posted in News

Become a member

Benefits of membership include:

  • Phone and peer support for sufferers and carers
  • Regular updates on issues relating to asbestos exposure and disease
  • Occupational therapy assessment and, if needed, follow-up through our contracted occupational therapist
Join today