Friday, November 21st, 2014

MEDIA ALERT:  21 November 2014

NOvember Is National Asbestos Awareness Month 2014


On Friday 28 November, National Asbestos Awareness Day, groups from around Australia will come together for Asbestos Remembrance Day Services paying tribute to the thousands of Australians who have died from asbestos-related diseases and reminding all Australians that asbestos is not a thing of the past, but very much an ever present danger.


According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, it is estimated that more than 25,000 Australians will die from mesothelioma over the next 40 years.  Currently, 600 mesothelioma cases are reported annually and this is expected to rise to more than 900 cases annually by the year 20201.


Barry Robson, President of Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia and long-time advocate for awareness of the dangers of asbestos said, “There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres.”


“In the past, the First Wave of people affected by asbestos-related diseases were those exposed to fibres in the mining and manufacturing process and their families. Then came the Second Wave which were people exposed to fibres from using products in the workplace.


“With 1 in 3 Australian homes containing asbestos in some form or another, the very real and present danger today is when people don’t know the risks or how to protect themselves or families and release fibres during home renovations and maintenance,” Mr Robson said


“Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma*2 and if tradies, handymen and DIYers release dangerous asbestos dust and fibres during renovations or in the demolition of homes containing asbestos, fibres can be inhaled increasing the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma or lung cancer,” he said.


Mesothelioma is a cancer that mostly affects the lining of the lungs and develops between 20-50 years after inhaling asbestos fibres. There is no cure and the average survival time after diagnosis is 10-12 months.  Inhaling asbestos fibres may also cause other diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and benign pleural disease.


With more than 60% of do-it-yourself (DIY) renovators having reported being exposed to asbestos dust during home renovations, 53% said that their partner had been exposed, and 40% said their children had been exposed to asbestos dust during home renovations, indications are that the Third Wave of asbestos-related diseases will include people who renovate or maintain homes without taking the proper precautions3.


From the end of World War II until 1954, 70,000 asbestos cement houses were built in NSW alone (52% of all houses built) with 25% of all new housing clad in asbestos cement until the 1960s4.


Peter Dunphy Chair of the Asbestos Education Committee that conducts the national Asbestos Awareness campaign said, “Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world. This is because Australia was among the highest consumers of asbestos products with more than 60% of all asbestos product manufacturing, and 90% of all consumption of asbestos fibre used in asbestos cement until a complete ban of asbestos came into force in Australia in 2003.


“There is still a high volume of asbestos-containing building materials which remain hidden dangers in brick, weatherboard, clad and fibro homes and buildings such as garages, outside toilets and farm structures so if a home was built or renovated prior to 1987 it is likely to contain asbestos.”


“If in good condition and left undisturbed, asbestos generally doesn’t pose a health risk. However, with the aging of homes, the popularity of DIY, renovating, knock-down-rebuild and with the redevelopment of old fibro home sites, it’s important that anyone working in or around homes or buildings constructed or renovated before 1987 know the dangers of asbestos and learn how to manage it safely,” Mr Dunphy said.


“No one can tell if a product contains asbestos just by looking at it and it’s not only fibro homes that may contain asbestos. Asbestos could be anywhere! Under floor coverings such as carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings and ceiling space (insulation), eaves, garages, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, extensions to homes, garages, outdoor toilets, backyard and farm sheds, chook sheds and even dog kennels.


“If people aren’t sure if a product contains asbestos they should treat it as if it is asbestos and take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves and families,” he said.


Asbestos Awareness Ambassador, Cherie Barber said, “When I first started renovating in 1991, the last thing on my mind was whether asbestos might be lurking behind the walls.


“Like so many people, I was bitten by the renovation bug and would never hesitate to pick up a hammer or stand in a cloud of dust, shovelling building waste into a skip bin in the pursuit of making as much money as I could from my renovating projects.


“Now I shudder to think, just how much I’ve put myself at risk, given what I now know about the dangers of asbestos when renovating dated, tired old houses.


“These days, I take every precaution and opportunity to publicly educate fellow renovators about the risks of asbestos - and in my world, that’s mostly women.


“Asbestos doesn’t discriminate. Be it male or female, tradie or project manager, if you’re anywhere near airborne asbestos fibres, then you’re putting your health and life at risk. And if you have kids with you on that work site, then you’re putting their lives at risk, too,” Ms Barber said.


When it comes to asbestos, Don’t play Renovation Roulette! 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!


Get to kNOw asbestos this NOvember. Visit because it’s not worth the risk!







Insight Communications - 02 9518 4744


Clare Collins 0414 821 957 - [email protected]

Alice Collins 0414 686 091 - [email protected]


Interviews are available with a variety of spokespersons including:

  1. Peter Dunphy (Asbestos Education Committee Chair)
  2. Professor Nico van Zandwijk; (Director Asbestos Diseases Research Institute)
  3. Barry Robson; (President Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia)
  4. Case studies and; 
  5. Asbestos Awareness Ambassadors;
    • Cherie Barber,
    • Don Burke,
    • Scott Cam,
    • Barry Du Bois,
    • John Jarratt and;
    • Scott McGregor. 


1. Australian Government National Health & Medical Research Council: Asbestos Related Diseases

2.Safe Work Australia: Asbestos-Related Disease Indicators, 2010, ISBN 978-0-642-33090-1,

3.  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.

4.  Safe Work Australia: Mesothelioma In Australia 2012, 2012, ISBN 978-0-642-78527-5


* Full medical term: malignant mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer arising from the lining (mesothelium) of the thoracic and abdominal cavities. The disease is usually advanced before symptoms appear, making an early diagnosis and effective treatment very difficult. The average survival time after diagnosis is only 10-11 months. A small exposure to asbestos can be enough to trigger the cancer, however a relatively small percentage of people exposed to asbestos develop mesothelioma. There usually is a lag of 30-40 years after the first asbestos exposure before the disease is diagnosed.


Where Might Asbestos Be Found in Your Home?

Products made from bonded asbestos cement that may have been used in your home include:

  • Fibro sheeting (flat and corrugated) which may have been used in internal walls and ceilings, external walls and cladding, infill panels in windows and doors, eves, fencing, carports, backyard sheds and dog kennels, electrical switchboards, sheeting under floor tiles, bathroom walls, backing to floor tiles and sheet vinyl, carpet underlay, and the backing behind the ceramic wall tiles and textile seals to the oven.
  • Water drainage and flue pipes.
  • Roofing shingles and guttering.

IMPORTANT: If fire, hail, or water blasting damages Non friable asbestos, it may become friable asbestos material and must be managed and removed by a licenced Friable Asbestos Removalist.


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Clare Collins or Alice Collins

P: 02 9518 4744
M: +61414821957


asbestos, asbestos awareness, asbestos awareness month, ADFA, Barry Robson, Peter Dunphy, Cherie Barber, DIY, Renovation, Asbestos Education Committee,, asbestos diseases, mesothelioma, Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia




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