As Australians enjoy a break over the summer many will use this downtime to get stuck into some home renovations. Before you tackle any home renovations on your place, it’s good to keep in mind that one in three Australian homes still contain deadly asbestos.
Asbestos cement products were commonly manufactured from the early 1920s to 1987 therefore extreme caution must be exercised with homes built before 1987. Asbestos was extensively used as a construction material from the 1920s, through to the post-World War II housing boom and right up to the mid-1980s. With that in mind we always suggest taking extreme caution with any house built before 1987.
Where can you find asbestos?
Asbestos may be present in a number of building materials used around the home. These include the exterior walls, internal walls (especially in wet areas), fencing, roofing, shingles and siding, eaves, backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring and water or flue pipes.
Although not everyone who comes into contact with asbestos will get sick, it's important to keep in mind that for some, very low exposure is enough to trigger the disease.
Australia is the world’s largest, per capita, user of asbestos and as a direct consequence; we have one of the highest incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world.
What is malignant mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is a painful and invariably deadly cancer which is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres.
Australia is now seeing a ‘third wave’ of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma. The ‘first wave’ consisted of miners and manufacturers. This was followed by the ‘second wave’ of construction workers, carpenters and other trades people exposed to asbestos fibres from building materials.
Tragically, the ‘third wave’ of home handy people are now being diagnosed with this deadly disease – with those being exposed to existing asbestos products in the home while carrying out renovations or maintenance.
Despite years of public awareness campaigns, this type of third wave exposure is becoming increasingly common. Research has indicated that in Queensland alone there were on average 169 mesothelioma cases per year in 2012, a significant rise from 17 per year in the 1980s.
If you’d like more information …
Resources are available relating to identification of asbestos products in the home including a number of helpful government and non-government websites such as www.asbestossafety.gov.au and www.asbestosawareness.com.au
For anyone contemplating DIY renovations, remember that if in doubt, seek more information. For more information, head to the Asbestos section on our website.