Know where to look in National Asbestos Awareness Week

Asbestos is present in millions of homes and buildings across Australia so knowing where to look for it and thinking twice before renovating are the key takeaways from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) this National Asbestos Awareness Week (November 22-28).

EPA Unit Head Education Programs Sharon Owens said 1 in 3 homes nationwide were likely to contain asbestos.

“If your house was built before 1990 it probably has asbestos-containing materials in rooms including the bathroom, laundry, kitchen, living areas, and even in backyard and outside areas like gutters, drainpipes and your shed,” Ms Owens said.

“If you’re considering DIY renovations or maintenance get in the know, take it slow and get a pro.

“Asbestos poses a serious health risk if damaged, weathered or worked on, so it’s really important if you’re planning renovations that you take precautions and think twice about asbestos ahead of time.

“Checking for asbestos before you start work will keep you and your family safe.”

Every year in Australia there are an estimated 4,000 deaths from past exposure to asbestos, which is one of the highest death rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world.

Ms Owens said that behavioural research* conducted in NSW found that many people, including renovators and tradespeople, don’t know the essentials about asbestos.

“Just under half of DIY home renovators plan for the risks of asbestos on home projects, and alarmingly 22% of these undertook the assessment of asbestos risk themselves. Yet around 80% acknowledged the consequences of even a small exposure can be serious,” Ms Owens said.

“In addition, around 50% agreed they know how to protect themselves from asbestos exposure, but there was little evidence that the right safety processes were adopted when asbestos was discovered.

“Fortunately, there is plenty of information about asbestos easily available on the Government website - so I encourage home renovators, tradespeople and anybody who may be coming into contact with asbestos, to read this information before they start work.

“People working on homes built before 1990 can stay safe if they know where asbestos is, if they don’t disturb or damage it, and if they seek professional help to locate, manage or remove it.

“The NSW Government asbestos website includes information about how to identify asbestos, how it can be safely removed and disposed of, and who to contact for advice.

“It also includes a range of safety resources such as how to find a licensed removalist and arrange an asbestos assessment from a licensed asbestos assessorbefore starting a renovation to best protect your family, neighbours and the wider community.

“The safest way to treat asbestos is to be informed before you come in to contact with it so this National Asbestos Awareness Week I encourage everybody to take the time and think twice about asbestos.”

*National benchmark survey of awareness and attitudes to asbestos 2018