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Exposed During Home Renovations

Serafina Salucci is typical of the third wave of asbestos victims, that is persons exposed to  asbestos as a result of non industrial use, mainly DYI home renovators or bystander exposures. A study by the University of Western Australia published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2011 showed that 13% of mesotheliomas in Western Australia in the preceding five years were as a result of exposure to asbestos during home renovations.

Serafina was born on 8 November 1969. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2007 at the age of 37 years. At the time she had four young children aged 10, 8, 6 and 3. She was exposed to asbestos as a child. When she was about 7 or 8 years old her father built a garage in the backyard of their home at Randwick to house his newly purchased car, a second hand Holden Kingswood. Serafina’s father built the garage using fibro sheets over a few weekends with the help of his brother and cousin. Serafina and her older brother played in the backyard whilst the garage was being built.

Serafina picked up the fibro cutters her father used to cut the sheets and played with them cutting up the fibro off-cuts lying on the ground. She and her brother threw the off-cuts at each other and used them as chalk to write and draw pictures on the ground.

A few years later Serafina’s family moved to Sutherland. The house had a double garage made from fibro. Serafina’s father replaced the fibro sheets along one wall whilst Serafina played nearby and again played with the fibro off-cuts.

Serafina was in excellent health until early 2007 when she developed a cough that would not go away. She saw her doctor who prescribed her antibiotics. Her cough remained and she was eventually sent for a chest x-ray which showed fluid and a large mass on her right lung. 2.5 litres of fluid were drained from her lung and she had a biopsy. A few days later she was told she had mesothelioma.

Serafina underwent surgery followed by ten chemotherapy sessions over eight months. A month later she underwent a further surgery, a radical pleuropneumonectomy whereby her right lung was removed. The surgery was featured on the television program RPA. Thereafter Serafina had 30 radiotherapy treatments and a further 2 chemotherapy treatments. It took her about 12 months to recover from the surgery and treatments. In late 2010/11 Serafina’s tumour returned and she had further chemotherapy and surgery.

Apart from looking after her four children Serafina has become an advocate for asbestos awareness and has campaigned for the introduction of Asbestos Safety Certificates, so that home owners would know on purchasing a house the location of any asbestos in the house. In May 2012 Serafina’s campaigning resulted in her meeting and telling her story to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

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