Asbestos-related disease from recycled hessian superphosphate bags in rural Western Australia

Austrailian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2006 Aug;30(4):312-3. [Link]

Musk AW, Olsen NJ, Reid A, Threlfall T, de Klerk NH.

School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, Crawley


Objectives: To describe the dissemination of asbestos fibres within the Western Australian community.

Methods: A case report.

Results: A 60-year-old female was referred for investigation of calcified pleural plaques. On questioning, she recalled exposure to asbestos as a child on the family farm. She had shaken hessian bags prior to recycling to the fertiliser supplier. Her father survived to 90 years. Her mother died from malignant pleural mesothelioma. Four of five siblings had shaken the bags, two had radiographic evidence of pleural plaques while two others had not had recent chest x-rays.

Conclusions: It appears that the use of recycled hessian bags for the fertiliser industry was endemic in the State during the period 1943-66. It is possible that many farmers and their families have had similar exposure to asbestos.

Implications: The risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is not restricted to any specific social or employment groups within the Australian community.