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Home renovators' asbestos warning

A new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia today (4 September 2011) has found that home renovations are causing an alarming number of asbestos-related disease in Australia, including in women. 

The study found that 35.7 per cent of female mesothelioma cases and 8.4 per cent male cases in Western Australia, between 2005 and 2008, were attributable to home renovation.

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Environmental and Occupational Cancer Risk Committee, Terry Slevin, said it was likely the data was indicative of a national problem.  

“Despite a ban on asbestos in Australia since 2003, new cases of mesothelioma are increasing and will continue to increase unless more action is taken to inform and assist home renovators on the way to reduce their risk,” Mr Slevin said. 

There were 554 men and 106 women diagnosed with mesothelioma in Australia in 2007.

“Australia has the highest per capita incidence of mesothelioma in the world and it’s estimated that up to 18,000 Australians are likely to die from this disease by 2020,” Mr Slevin said. “It can take 20 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos for the symptoms of disease to appear, so we need to do far more to reduce Australians’ exposure to asbestos.”

In Australia, houses that are between 30 and 60 years old have a significant prospect of containing asbestos material of one kind or another.  Cancer Council Australia is urging home renovators to be aware of potential asbestos in the walls, ceilings and floors.  

“Most people don’t know how to identify it – and if they do – they are unsure how to deal with it,” Mr Slevin said. “This is a deadly form of cancer and its cause is preventable.  This problem is far from solved and the homes built using asbestos are at an age when they are due for renovation and upgrading. That process poses a serious cancer risk.”

A guide for home owners and renovators is available online
Australian Asbestos Network DIY Renovators Guide.

Media contact:
Abby Samuel
Phone: 02 8063 4100 
Mobile: 0432 693 315 

This page was last updated on: Thursday, November 19, 2015

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