Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 - The Asbestos Education Committee


“Don’t play Renovation Roulette Australia!” That’s the message for all Australians for national Asbestos Awareness Day (Friday 29 November), in the fight against the ‘current wave’ of asbestos related diseases caused by inhaling asbestos fibres when renovating or maintaining homes.

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

The ‘current wave’ of asbestos-related diseases predominantly affects people exposed to fibres when renovating or maintaining homes specifically handymen and DIYers and their families who are present at the time.

With one in 3 Australian homes containing asbestos, the need for ALL Australians to learn the risks and how to manage asbestos safely, cannot be overstated!

Australia was among the top consumers of asbestos cement products per capita and with one of the highest rates of asbestos related diseases in the world.

Unless Australians learn the dangers of asbestos and start taking the warnings seriously, the number of Australians affected by asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, will continue to rise.

Most Australians don’t know the many locations where asbestos might be found. It could be anywhere!

Asbestos products were used in almost every brick, weatherboard, fibro or clad home built or renovated before 1987.

The Asbestos Education Committee and the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute are urging ALL Australian’s to ‘stop playing renovation roulette’.

Learn the dangers of asbestos in and around homes and how to manage it safely by visiting With studies reporting renovators being exposed to asbestos dust during home renovations, for DIYers, this message could be lifesaving!

Peter Dunphy, Chair of the Asbestos Education Committee said “When it comes to asbestos, it is essential that people don’t cut it! Don’t drill 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 and most importantly, don’t dump it!  And if you need to remove it, we recommend using a licenced professional asbestos removalist.

“All Australians MUST ‘stop playing renovation roulette’ and start playing it safe! We need to think smart, think safe and visit because it’s not worth the risk!” he said.


Contact Insight Communications 02 9319-3844

Clare 0414-821-957 [email protected]

Alice 0414-686-091 [email protected]


Contact Profile

The Asbestos Education Committee


Australians Need to STOP Playing Renovation Roulette!

Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos related diseases in the world.

Asbestos-related diseases are continuing to increase among Australians as a direct result of exposure to asbestos fibres during home renovations and maintenance.

Asbestos Awareness Month, November 2013 is the initiative of the Asbestos Education Committee working in partnership with the Asbestos Diseases Research institute to educate all Australian’s about the dangers of asbestos in and around homes.

Homeowners and renovators need to visit to learn where asbestos products might be found in their homes.

Many wrongly believe that ONLY fibro homes contain asbestos. Asbestos products can be found in ANY Australian home built or renovated before 1987 - even brick, weatherboard, fibro and clad homes.

Do you know where asbestos might be found in your home?

  1. Do you know that if your home was built or renovated before 1987 there is a high likelihood that it WILL contain asbestos products in one form or another?
  2. Do you know that even if your home is constructed of BRICK that it might contain asbestos?
  3. Do you know WHERE you might find asbestos products in your home?
  4. Do you know that asbestos was used in the manufacture of MANY building and home decorator products including carpet underlay and wall and floor tiles?
  5. Do you know that asbestos might be found in and around ONE IN THREE Australian homes?
  6. Do you know that if you disturb products containing asbestos you RISK INHALING asbestos fibres?
  7. Do you know the diseases that asbestos fibres can cause, and that they CAN BE FATAL?
  8. Do you know how to IDENTIFY asbestos products?
  9. Do you know the PRECAUTIONS you need to take when working with asbestos?

If you said NO to ANY of the above you are not alone! Most Australians don’t realise where asbestos might be found in their homes and the risks they take when disturbing it during renovations or maintenance.


  1. Australia has been ranked among the world’s top consumers of asbestos cement products per capita.
  2. Every brick, weatherboard, fibro or clad home built or renovated in the years leading up to 1987, most likely contains asbestos.
  3. A conservative estimate is that 1 in 3 homes in Australia contain asbestos including homes constructed of weatherboard and brick.
  4. If asbestos is undisturbed it does not pose a health risk.
  5. Many Australians may unknowingly be putting their health and the health of their children and neighbours at risk because they don’t really understand the dangers of working with asbestos or know where it might be found in and around their home.
  6. During renovations or the demolition of homes containing asbestos, asbestos fibres can be released into the air and be inhaled leading to asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
  7. Not only homes constructed of fibro contain asbestos.  Asbestos may be found in every room in the home 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 – it could be anywhere!


  1. The study ‘Increasing incidence of malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos during home maintenance and renovation’ by researcher Nola J Olsen et al which examined cases from the Western Australian Mesothelioma Register (from 1960 to 2008) showed that over a four year period (2005 and 2008), 8.4% of all men and 35.7% of all women diagnosed with mesothelioma were home renovators with renovations and maintenance being the main cause of the disease in women.
  2. A study by Professor Anthony Johnson et al into ‘The prevalence of self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation in NSW residents’ revealed:
  • 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.

The study concluded that asbestos exposure was common during home renovations – particularly in DIY and found a significant number of people were planning further renovations.


  1. Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world.
  2. Mesothelioma is a cancer which is almost uniquely caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.
  3. There is no cure.
  4. The average survival rate after diagnosis is between 6-18 months.
  5. Unless homeowners take the warning seriously, the number of Australians diagnosed with mesothelioma (an incurable asbestos-related cancer) will continue to rise.
  6. During renovations or the demolition of homes containing asbestos, asbestos fibres can be released into the air and be inhaled leading to asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Inhaled fibres increase the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma or lung cancer.


Please refer to the website where the community can access vital information about managing asbestos safely in the home.

  1. Visit to find out where you might find asbestos in the home and how to manage it safely.
  2. Visit to find out about regulations.
  3. Visit to find out more about research into asbestos diseases.
  4. Visit to find out about the safe disposal of asbestos.

Park EK, Hyland R, Yates D, Thomas PS, Johnson A. Asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales. Medical Journal Australasia, September 2013; 199 (6): 410-413.

Olsen NJ, Franklin PJ, Reid A, de Klerk NH, Threlfall TJ, Shilkin K, Musk B, 5-Sept-2011, “Increasing incidence of malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos during home maintenance and renovation”, Medical Journal of Australia, 195 (5): 271-274.  

Park EK, Hyland R, Yates D, Thomas PS, Johnson A. Prevalence of self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation in NSW residents. Respirology Supplement 1, Poster 143. March 2010.


Australia experienced a major housing boom after World War II and the rate of home ownership increased from around 40 per cent in 1947 to over 70 per cent in 1960 and sparked a massive phase of building and construction in Australia. Fibro or asbestos-cement was widely used in this construction era. In 1966, 30 per cent of all houses in NSW were asbestos clad. Asbestos materials still exist in many homes today in other parts of the home.

To learn where asbestos is likely to be found in homes visit:


Australians wouldn’t do their own electrical work because of the dangers of working with electricity. Compared to other household expenses and tradesmen, the cost of retaining a professional asbestos removalist is affordable. 

If people suspect that asbestos might be in their home and want it removed, it is recommended to use a licenced removalist. A licenced removalist will come to your home, remove the asbestos safely and dispose of it according to regulations.

To locate a licenced inspector or removalist in NSW visit:


The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI), located in the Bernie Banton Centre, Concord NSW was officially opened by the then Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd in January 2009. With Australia having one of the highest incidences of asbestos cancers in the world, the ADRI was established by the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation (a charitable not-for-profit organisation) as Australia’s only purpose built research facility dedicated to preventing asbestos related diseases.  The ADRI’s primary objectives are to:

  1. Conduct research into asbestos related diseases to provide a better future for all Australians diagnosed with asbestos related illness.
  2. Be instrumental in promoting effective preventative measures to avoid Australians being unnecessarily exposed to asbestos fibres.

With the establishment of the ADRI as the first stand-alone research institute dedicated to tackling this silent and still increasing epidemic, Australia has taken a vital step forward in the international fight against asbestos related diseases.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma (MM) almost uniquely caused by asbestos exposure was seldom diagnosed until the 1960’s.  According to Safe Work Australia, in 2007, 660 Australians were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and experts have estimated that there were at least another 1,350 Australians with lung cancer caused by asbestos.  A tragic consequence of highly intensive use of asbestos and its products in Australia in the previous century, it is estimated that these figures will continue to rise in the coming decades. 

MM is a disease that develops several years after the first exposure to asbestos fibres.  However, the disease is currently also diagnosed in young adults incidentally exposed to asbestos fibres as children. The fact that approximately 1/3 of older Australian homes built or renovated before 1985 contain asbestos, reinforces the significance of Australians undertaking adequate preventive measures.

The prognosis of MM patients is poor and almost all will experience severely debilitating symptoms. MM is only partially responding to the current forms of oncologic therapy and currently there is no curative treatment for the disease. It is therefore critical that we make a substantial investment in medical research to find better means of understanding the specific biology of MM in order to try to achieve better clinical outcomes for people affected by the disease.

Why invest in research in Malignant Mesothelioma?

When compared to other frequently diagnosed cancers such as breast cancer and melanoma, MM has been under-studied. However, outcomes of research conducted into MM provide excellent opportunities for insights into cancer that can be widely applied.  For example:

  1. The carcinogen is known: For most solid human malignancies, the actual carcinogen is not known (even for cigarette smoke where multiple carcinogens have been implicated). The single dominant carcinogen for the development of MM is asbestos.  Therefore, its role can be followed in studies ranging from the laboratory to epidemiological studies.
  2. At-risk cohorts can be identified and followed: One of the keys to studying populations at risk of cancer is to be able to identify those at highest risk.  Because individuals who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos are at (high) risk of developing MM (e.g., occupational exposure), these individuals can be followed prospectively over decades in screening/biomarker studies.
  3. High quality animal models exist: Animal models of MM pathogenesis and treatment can be studied and translated into novel therapies for MM patients.
  4. Novel treatments are desperately needed: The options for current standard treatment are limited and new agents can be investigated relatively easily.
  5. Common responsibility: MM as a man-made disease that not only asks for responsibility from employers and legislators, but also from Australian society that as a whole, has permitted intensive asbestos use in the past.


Following the success of the NSW based 2011 and 2012 awareness week campaigns; in 2013 the Asbestos Education Committee is funding Asbestos Awareness Month as a national awareness campaign. The Asbestos Awareness campaign is being overseen by WorkCover, the ACTU and James Hardie and supported by the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute.  Funding for this campaign was provided by James Hardie Industries SE and the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities.

Clare Collins
P: 0293193844
M: 0414821957


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