- Asbestos fibres were used widely in building materials before the mid-1980s
- If your house was built or renovated before the mid-1980s, it is likely to contain asbestos cement building materials
- Products made from bonded asbestos cement included fibro sheeting (flat and corrugated), water, drainage and flue pipes, roofing shingles and guttering
- If you are not sure if asbestos is in your home or in need of replacement, you can have your home inspected for unsafe asbestos by a licenced removalist or occupational hygienist
Has Asbestos Exposure Been Linked to DIY Renovating?
Asbestos exposure has been linked to DIY renovating! In the past Australians diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma has primarily been men exposed to asbestos through work-related exposure. Today there is a growing body of evidence that more people including women are being diagnosed through non-occupational exposure including during home renovations.
If asbestos is disturbed during renovations or in the demolition of homes containing asbestos, fibres can be released into the air and be inhaled. Inhaled fibres increase the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma or lung cancer.
A study (MJA in press) by Professor Anthony Johnson et al into ‘The prevalence of self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation in NSW residents’ showed:
- 60.5% of do it yourself (DIY) renovators reported being exposed to asbestos during home renovations.
- 53% reported their partner and 40% reported their children were also exposed to asbestos during home DIY home renovations.
- Non DIY renovators were less likely to be exposed or have their families exposed.
- 58% of DIY renovators cut AC Fibro Sheeting – this was the most common activity resulting in asbestos exposure.
- 37% of DIY renovators reported using a power tool to cut asbestos products.
- Thus asbestos exposure is common during home renovations
The Australian Mesothelioma Registry’s 2014 Report shows that of the 350 people diagnosed with mesothelioma where there is information about asbestos exposure, 137 (39.14%) were classified as non-occupational exposure. Of these 37.2% were home renovators and of those 33% were women.
What NOT to Do With Asbestos in Your Home
If you find asbestos in your home, Don’t cut it! Don’t drill it! Don’t drop it! Don’t sand it! Don’t saw it! Don’t scrape it! Don’t scrub it! Don’t dismantle it! Don’t tip it! Don’t waterblast it! Don’t demolish it! And whatever you do… Don’t dump it!
Never use tools on asbestos materials as they will make asbestos fibres airborne including:
- Power tools such as electric drills, angle grinders, circular saws and electric sanders
- Never use high pressure water blasters or compressed air
When is Asbestos in the Home NOT a Significant Health Risk?
- Studies have shown that asbestos products, if in sound condition and left undisturbed, are not a significant health risk
- If the asbestos fibres remain firmly bound in a solid cement sheet or structure, generally you do not need to remove the asbestos
- If your home contains bonded asbestos products that are in good condition, leave them alone but remember to check them occasionally for any signs of wear and tear
Asbestos is still widely used in some countries. Despite being a prohibited import in Australia, goods containing asbestos are still being located at the Australian border. For more information visit the Federal Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency website, The Australian Border Force website or download the Australian Border Force Fact Sheet on asbestos imports.
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