Tomorrow is the start of National Asbestos Awareness Month, a campaign to educate homeowners, renovators, handymen and tradespeople about the dangers of asbestos and how to manage it safely.
Australia was among the largest consumers of asbestos-containing materials in the world, the campaign’s organisers say.
Asbestos-containing products are still found in one in three Australian brick, weatherboard fibro and clad, homes including apartments built or renovated before 1987.
Asbestos was used in many product types including 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 structures, chook sheds and dog kennels.
Without knowing where these asbestos-containing products might be in homes or how to manage and dispose of asbestos safely, Australians play a risky game of ‘Renovation Roulette’ when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed releasing fibres that can be inhaled, the organisers say, which may cause asbestos-related diseases including malignant mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma can develop between 20 and 50 years after inhaling asbestos fibres. The average survival time is 10-12 months following diagnosis.
Inhaling asbestos fibres can also cause lung cancer, asbestosis and benign pleural disease.
There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres.
Consumers are being encouraged to visit asbestosawareness.com.au to identify products and possible locations in homes to learn how to manage and dispose of asbestos safely.
The national campaign was initiated by the Asbestos Education Committee in partnership with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute supported by the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities.