Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

National Asbestos Awareness Week (26 – 30 November) is the First Line of Defence Against the ‘Third Wave’ of Asbestos-Related Cancers

“Don’t play Renovation Roulette!” That’s the message the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute and the Asbestos Education Committee is sending to all Australians during national Asbestos Awareness Week, a campaign created to be the first line of defence against the ‘third wave’ of asbestos related diseases caused by inhaling asbestos fibres while renovating or maintaining homes.

Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos related diseases in the world most likely 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), has recently become evident and will continue to rise unless Australians start taking seriously the dangers of asbestos when renovating or maintaining their homes.

Professor Nico van Zandwijk, a world leader in asbestos-related diseases and Director of Australia’s Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, said, “The importance of raising awareness of the dangers of releasing asbestos fibres into the air when renovating or maintaining homes cannot 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 to learn where asbestos can be found in the home and how best to manage it.”

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’ 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.

The study also noted that the most prevalent non-occupational exposure of people occurred during simple home renovations, with mesothelioma patients reporting having drilled or sanded asbestos cement walls, lifted linoleum floors and used asbestos cement sheeting to build sheds and fences, laundries and simple extensions, often with exposure limited to a single activity.

In the past, 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 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?”

The national campaign supported by the Asbestos Education Committee, aims to change the way Australian’s think about how they manage asbestos in and around the home.

Peter Dunphy, Chair of the Asbestos Education Committee said, “Whether a home is constructed of brick, fibro or weatherboard, or has exterior cladding, asbestos can be found almost everywhere in and around homes built or renovated before the mid 1980s.

Most people can’t tell whether building materials contain asbestos just by looking at them. Asbestos can 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 – it could be anywhere.

“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.

“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,” Mr Dunphy said.

“So, to all Australian homeowners we’re saying, “Don’t play renovation roulette! If asbestos is 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! Don’t dump it!”

“We want Australians to stop being complacent about how they work with asbestos. We want them to start thinking smart and safe by visiting for information on managing asbestos in and around the home because it’s not worth the risk!”

During Asbestos Awareness Week, Australians are invited to hold a Blue Lamington Drive to help raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos when renovating and funds to support the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation and the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia.

For more information please visit or call 02 9767 9800 (during business hours) or visit Donations of $2.00 or more will be gratefully received and are fully tax deductible.


Reference: Nola J Olsen, Peter J Franklin, Alison Reid, Nicholas H de Klerk, Timothy J Threlfall, Keith Shilkin and Bill Musk: Increasing incidence of malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos during home maintenance and renovation

More information: Please see detailed Journalist Notes on page 3 of the release or to arrange an interview with a variety of spokespersons, please contact Insight Communications. To download hi-res images or obtain webtiles vist 

Clare Collins: P 02 9319 3844 - M 0414 821 957 E [email protected]
Alice Collins: P 02 9319 3844 – M 0414 686 091 E [email protected]


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