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Asbestos DIY doubt: homeowners reveal they can’t spot the deadly dust

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Nearly half (47 per cent) of Australia’s homeowners are not confident they could recognise asbestos if they came across it, despite the majority (61 per cent) undertaking Do-It-Yourself renovations on their property, new research has found.

The research by Slater and Gordon Lawyers, surveyed 2,000 Australian homeowners, and revealed women (56 per cent) were more likely to doubt they could identify the deadly material asbestos in their home than men (35 per cent).

The findings were released during Asbestos Awareness Week (November 23 to 27) as part of a country-wide focus during National Asbestos Awareness Month in November.

Senior asbestos lawyer from Slater and Gordon, Margaret Kent, said the new findings were alarming given estimates that one-in-three Australian homes contained asbestos.

“Asbestos was extensively used as a construction material in Australia during the post-World War II housing boom and right up to the mid-1980s, so it must be assumed that homes built during that time contain the deadly product,”

“We know that products containing asbestos had many uses, including in walls, fencing, roofing, pipes, flues, ceiling insulation, carpet underlay and tile undersheeting – and a major problem is that it can be very difficult to spot if you’re not a professional.”

Ms Kent said hundreds of Australians continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases every year.

“The ‘first wave’ of victims was mostly miners and manufacturers and the ‘second wave’ was construction and trade workers who were exposed to asbestos in building materials,” she said.

“Sadly, we’re in the midst of a ‘third wave’ of victims, who were exposed in their home environment. Without greater community asbestos awareness, we risk more home exposures to asbestos, as more and more people embrace the DIY craze and renovate their homes.

“A growing number of these third wave victims are women, so it’s particularly concerning that research shows women were more doubtful than men went it comes to spotting asbestos during renovations.”

Ms Kent said the dangers of asbestos should never be underestimated, with even low levels of exposure able to cause life threatening illnesses.

“The risk arises once asbestos has been disturbed and dust is released, for example while drilling, sanding and demolishing during home renovations,”

“If renovators suspect there is asbestos in their house, they should leave it alone and have it identified and removed by professionals. Avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent asbestos-related diseases.”