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Asbestos: The Risk is Real

By Bernadette Gordon

Australians adore their DIY, but the experts are warning not to risk playing ‘renovation roulette’ with asbestos.

At least one in three Australian homes contain asbestos, and November is Asbestos Awareness Month – dedicated to making sure the public understand this deadly material and how to avoid its toxic impacts in the home.

It is not just those conducting major renovations who should be aware of the risks. Even banging a hole in a wall to hang a picture could potentially release asbestos fibres. So it’s important to understand the risks and know how to manage them.

Asbestos facts:

  1. Asbestos can be found in and around most homes built or renovated before 1987;
  2. It doesn’t matter whether a home is made of weatherboard, brick, fibro or has exterior cladding – asbestos can be found in each of these;
  3. Exposure to asbestos fibres is very common during home renovations. A recent study (Medical Journal of Australia) found more than 60% of DIY renovators reported exposure; 53% reported that their partner had been exposed; and 40% said that their children had been exposed;
  4. Asbestos can be found in kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, under floor covering, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, garages, ceilings, eaves, fences, extensions to homes, backyard sheds, farm sheds, chook sheds – even dog kennels;
  5. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres. If you disturb asbestos when renovating and release fibres, you could be putting the health of you and your family at risk.

How to manage asbestos:

  • Wherever possible, consult professionals before undertaking renovations, especially major structural changes to a property. They should be able to help you assess the likelihood of asbestos and where it might be located.
  • Removing asbestos is a dangerous and complicated process best carried out by trained professionals who are licenced. While it may be legal for you to remove the
  • Each state and territory has different policies about asbestos removal. Familiarise yourself with the relevant guidance to make sure you’re not breaking any laws and you’re keeping yourself safe.
  • Ensure you take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself and minimise the release of dust or small particles from any likely asbestos materials.
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