Half of Australian home owners can't identify asbestos

HEALTH HAZARD: Asbestos identification and removal should be left to the professionals.
HEALTH HAZARD: Asbestos identification and removal should be left to the professionals. Che Chapman

RESEARCH has shown nearly half of all home owners aren't confident they could recognise asbestos if they came across it.

The research found while 62% of people have undertaken DIY renovations, only 46% knew what asbestos looked like.

Findings for the survey of 2000 Australian home owners by Slater and Gordon Lawyers were released during Asbestos Awareness Week this week.

Senior asbestos lawyer Margaret Kent said the findings were alarming given estimates that one-in-three Australian homes contain asbestos.

"Asbestos was extensively used as a construction material in Australia during the post-World War Two housing boom and right up to the mid-1980s, so it must be assumed that homes built during that time contain the deadly product," she said.

"We know that products containing asbestos had many uses, including in walls, fencing, roofing, pipes, flues, ceiling insulation, carpet underlay and tile undersheeting - and a major problem is that it can be very difficult to spot if you're not a professional."

Ms Kent said hundreds of Australians continued to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases every year.

"The first wave of victims was mostly miners and manufacturers and the second wave was construction and trade workers who were exposed to asbestos in building materials," she said.

"Sadly, we're in the midst of a third wave of victims, who were exposed in their home environment.

"Without greater community asbestos awareness, we risk more home exposures to asbestos, as more and more people embrace the DIY craze and renovate their homes."

She said the dangers of asbestos should never be underestimated, with even low levels of exposure able to cause life-threatening illnesses.

"The risk arises once asbestos has been disturbed and dust is released, for example while drilling, sanding and demolishing during home renovations.

"If renovators suspect there is asbestos in their house, they should leave it alone and have it removed by professionals."

Topics:  asbestos slater and gordon

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