Asbestosis is a dreadful affliction. Since there is no cure for it, victims usually suffer a lengthy and painful death, essentially caused by lack of oxygen from breathing as lung function decreases.
Health authorities around the globe have mounted major education and awareness campaigns in tandem with legislative and regulatory bans on asbestos itself and products containing asbestos. Australia, for example, banned asbestos in any form from the start of 2004.
Even so, hundreds of Australians still die each year from the effects of asbestos inhalation. The latency period can range from 5 to 20-plus years.
So, not something to be taken lightly. That said, some of the reactions to asbestos are little short of surreal.
In my home state of Queensland, Australia, we have thousands of schools, many of which are old enough to have had asbestos used in their construction. And governments of all persuasions are scared to the point of paranoia of alienating parents of young children.
So, asbestos in schools is a big issue. But some responses to the issue are absurd to the point of stupidity. For instance . . .
At a school ‘somewhere’ several Year 8 students were helping a teacher lower an overhead projector when a wall-mounted bracket came loose and fell to the floor. No-one was hurt in that incident. BUT some powder came out of the six screw holes in the wall. Well, all hell broke loose from there!
The school authorities went into meltdown. The 13 year old boys were ordered to have an immediate shower. They were provided with a new uniform and even their shoes were thrown out!
Full reimbursement of costs to the parents, no questions asked. And for any fees if they wanted to seek urgent medical attention.
Okay, asbestosis is a disease not to be trifled with and there is no safe amount to ingest. But, for pity’s sake, it is – almost always – an occupational disease triggered by long-term and repeated exposure
If our society continues to wrap young people in excessive ‘cotton wool’ (think of the banning of all manner of playground equipment in the name of safety and absurdities like banning young females from doing cartwheels because their knickers could be exposed) then we saddle future generations with fears and insecurities entirely out of proportion to potential endangerment.
Protecting kids is good but giving them neuroses is very counterproductive.