Last updated February 15, 2019 at 1:49 pm
Home DIY-ers are putting themselves at risk of mesothelioma, says a lung expert, urging people to educate before they renovate.
Bashing through a wall or refreshing your kitchen or bathroom could be putting home renovation DIY-ers at risk of asbestos-related diseases, warns a lung disease expert.
With the popularity of home renovation TV shows and high housing prices, young families, including children, are on the front line of the next generation of asbestos-related disease, dubbed the ‘third wave’.
While many manufacturers removed asbestos from building materials in the 1980s, there are many old houses that may contain a wide range of asbestos risks, including flooring, roofing and fencing.
Asbestos-containing products were banned in Australia in 2004.
However, with Australia previously being one of the biggest users of asbestos combined with a modern-day lack of awareness, younger generations are putting themselves at risk, with just one exposure to asbestos dust or fibres enough to cause the onset of mesothelioma, says Sonja Klebe, a medical researcher from Flinders University who specialises in researching mesothelioma.
While there are no immediate symptoms, and we often wouldn’t expect such bad luck from something as innocent as a little DIY handy work,” she says.
“Information about the risks, and the materials containing asbestos, is readily available but the community needs constant reminding.”
While in the past miners and manufacturers of asbestos products, and the tradespeople who used them, were at risk, Klebe says the risks now are more widespread.
“If accidentally exposed to fibres or dust from home renovation or demolition, even a child or baby asleep or playing in a nearby room is at risk of developing these deadly lung and related diseases in 10 to 20 years’ time,” she says.
Klebe strongly encourages home DIY-ers to research asbestos products before embarking on any projects.
“We urge DIYers to not disturb any materials until they’ve been tested or checked, including vinyl or carpet, or windows and eaves, which might contain asbestos.”
Checking for asbestos with a certified laboratory; paying a licensed subcontractor to remove the flooring, interior walls, roofing material or fence, and making sure you follow the safe removal and disposal routine for asbestos are vitally important precautions, she says.