13 November 2012 — Australians are being urged not to play “Renovation Roulette” by the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute and the Asbestos Education Committee during national Asbestos Awareness Week.

Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos related diseases in the world – probably because Australia has also been ranked among the top consumers of asbestos cement products per capita.

With almost every home built or renovated before the mid-1980s likely to contain asbestos in one form or another; the third wave of people affected by mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos-related cancer, is on the rise.

Asbestos Diseases Research Institute director, and world leader in asbestos-related diseases, Professor Nico van Zandwijk said the importance of raising awareness of the dangers of releasing asbestos fibres into the air when renovating or maintaining homes could not be overstated.

“With DIY renovations increasing partly due to the popularity of home renovation and lifestyle television programs and magazines, those thinking about renovating or home maintenance must visit asbestosawareness.com.au to learn where asbestos can be found in the home and how best to manage it,” he said.

If left undisturbed asbestos generally does not pose a health risk. However, the study “Increasing incidence of malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos during home maintenance and renovation”, which examined cases from the Western Australian Mesothelioma Register from 1960 to 2008, showed that over a four year period from 2005 to 2008, 8.4 per cent of all men and 35.7 per cent of all women diagnosed with mesothelioma were home renovators with renovations and maintenance being the main cause of the disease in women.

In the past, those affected by asbestos related diseases were exposed to raw fibres in the mining and manufacturing process, the first wave, followed by workers who used asbestos products in the workplace, the second wave.

The third wave of asbestos-related diseases predominantly affects people exposed to fibres during home renovations and maintenance specifically handymen and DIYers as well as family members present at the time.

“For every mesothelioma case there are at least two lung cancer cases caused by asbestos. The realisation that their disease might have been prevented makes asbestos victims extra sad and angry,” Professor van Zandwijk said.

“With the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma as a direct result of exposure to asbestos during home renovations continuing to rise, it’s vital that Australians take the warnings seriously to protect themselves and their families,”

“Irrespective of what material a home is constructed of, we want all Australians to ask themselves, could my home contain asbestos products and could I be playing renovation roulette, putting my health and the health of my family at risk by disturbing asbestos when renovating or maintaining my home?”

Asbestos Education Committee chair Peter Dunphy said whether a home was constructed of brick, fibro or weatherboard, or has exterior cladding, asbestos could be found almost everywhere in and around homes built or renovated before the mid-1980s.

Asbestos could be under floor coverings such as carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings, eaves, garages, around hot water pipes, fences, extensions to homes, outdoor toilets, dog kennels and backyard sheds, he said.

“Before commencing any home maintenance or renovation work, homeowners and renovators, particularly young couples and first home buyers excited about renovating their homes, need to learn about where they might find asbestos in the home and how best to manage it so they can protect themselves and their families from asbestos fibres,” he said.

“We want DIYers to play it safe. Just as they would get a licenced electrician to do their electrical work because of the dangers of working with electricity, if people suspect they have asbestos in their home and want it removed, a licenced asbestos removalist is the way to go.”

Details: www.asbestosawareness.com.au, (02) 9767 9800 or www.adri.org.au. Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.