Asbestos Education Committee warns against complacency

by Helena Morgan
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In recognition of Asbestos Awareness Day, Australia’s Asbestos Education Committee implores residents, tradespeople, DIYers and facility managers to respect the ever-present risks of working on and maintaining buildings constructed before 1990. 

Asbestos-related diseases are responsible for the deaths of over 4000 Australians every year – a staggering number that outweighs those killed on Australian roads last year.

Renovation roulette

In response to one in three Australian homes containing asbestos, Asbestos Education Committee chairperson Clare Collins highlights the perils of ‘renovation and maintenance roulette’ and urges tradespeople, building managers and DIYers to abide by safety guidelines. 

People risk inhaling minute fibres if asbestos-containing materials are disturbed during maintenance or demolition. Inhalation can cause asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma.

Australia has one of the highest recorded incidence rates of the incredibly rare and incurable cancer mesothelioma in the world. Following diagnosis, the average survival time is one year. 

“Renovators and building managers need to be aware that asbestos fibres were used in the manufacture of more than 3000 building and decorator products that lie hidden in one third of Aussie homes,” says Collins. 

Asbestos 101

Due to a standard building report not covering asbestos detection, Collins strongly encourages people to use the resources available on the ‘Asbestos Awareness’ website to guarantee a safe  management of asbestos, alongside enlisting the services of a licenced asbestos assessor or occupational hygienist. 

The website offers access to the recently published Asbestos 101 for Residential Property Owners, Managers and Tradies resource that heavily relies on government Work Health and Safety Regulations and Codes of Practice. 

‘Asbestos 101’ is an invaluable resource for anyone who may encounter asbestos – outlining how and why asbestos is hazardous, what to do if they fear they’ve handled asbestos-containing materials and the importance of using licensed asbestos removalists. 

Increased spectrum of risk

Collins disputes the assumption that only tradespeople will be exposed to asbestos, as according to the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) Report from April of this year, 83 percent of respondents were found as only having ‘possible or probable’ exposure to asbestos fibres, and primarily in home settings. 

Another misconception Collins shatters is that asbestos is exclusively found in fibro homes. 

“Most Australians don’t know that asbestos-containing products were used widely in brick and weatherboard clad homes and apartments.”

“With deaths predicted to continue to rise among workers and those exposed to fibres through maintenance and builds, it’s vital that people respect asbestos risks,” concludes Collins. 

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