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Home > News > 2016 > July > Teacher diagnosed with cancer after classroom asbestos exposure

Teacher diagnosed with cancer after classroom asbestos exposure

caution_tape.jpgLawyers for a retired Queensland teacher recently diagnosed with cancer resulting from asbestos exposure in a classroom almost 40 years ago say the case is not an isolated one.

The former science teacher was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March this year after inadvertent asbestos exposure from Bunsen burner safety mats containing the insidious substance at a Toowoomba school during a decade between the 1970s and 1980s.

Made from asbestos, the safety mats, slowly disintegrated when moved around the science lab creating a “ticking time bomb” which saw the former teacher breathing asbestos dust and fibres.

As a teacher, the now grandfather of four, also worked with equipment made from asbestos when teaching on a relief basis at a number Sunshine Coast schools.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Martin Rogalski, who represented the former teacher in a recent case for damages, said mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases can take a number of years to develop, which means people who were exposed 30-50 years ago still might not have any major symptoms.

"While asbestos is commonly linked with mining and construction work, I have seen a number of clients who were first exposed to asbestos in classrooms, hospitals and offices," Mr Rogalski said.

The issue of classroom related asbestos exposure is not one isolated to Australia.

Last year a primary school teacher in England was found to have died from cancer contracted after decades of asbestos exposure from pinboards used to display her pupil’s art work.

As the APHEDA Not Here. Not Anywhere. campaign highlights despite the loss of life and significant public health and union campaigns, thousands of workers around the world continue to be exposed to asbestos everyday with the mining, manufacturing and use of asbestos still prevalent in many countries.

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said that in Australia, legislation and regulations were in place to prevent worker exposure to asbestos but all employees including members of our union should be cautious as to any work situation in which they believe asbestos materials may be present.

“Whether you believe you may have had direct exposure or second-hand exposure through an asbestos removal process at your school, all members should call our union in the first instance and not to make further contact with any materials made from the substance.

“From an industrial perspective the onus is on employers to have informed employees of any asbestos risk areas in the workplace and to provide training and protective equipment if necessary,” Mr Burke said.

Members who have questions or concerns regarding asbestos exposure in the workplace, should contact a member of our Industrial Service team.


Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.