Renovators reminded about hidden risks in National Asbestos Awareness Week

Research has found more than 50 per cent of homeowners don’t know how to deal with asbestos and dispose of it safely, despite it being found in many homes built before 1990.

NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) CEO Tony Chappel said the alarming statistics are a stark reminder that all homeowners need to be asbestos ready prior to starting renovations.   

“It may surprise people to know that one in three homes in Australia are affected by asbestos and it’s a tragedy when do-it-yourself renovations have life-changing consequences if people are exposed to asbestos fibres,” Mr Chappel said. 

“More than 3,000 products containing asbestos were used in Australian homes and workplaces before asbestos was banned, and renovators should be extra vigilant with DIY work, as you can’t always tell if something contains asbestos just by looking at it.

“It’s a timely reminder as many properties across NSW have been severely damaged by devastating floods and residents are faced with potential asbestos issues as they restore their homes.

“We’re working closely with response agencies to make sure everybody knows how to handle asbestos appropriately. We want to keep every family safe as they rebuild and recover.”

Residents can access helpful information online about how to best deal with asbestos after disasters.

Everyday products that may contain asbestos include:

  • roofs, eaves, downpipes and insulation
  • interior walls (often with a non-asbestos covering on the outside)
  • kitchen splashbacks
  • under lino, some carpets and tiles (and the cement compounds used to fix tiles)
  • lagging around pipes, inside fuse boxes or as part of ventilation shafts
  • fences, garden sheds and small outdoor constructions like chicken coops
  • as part of bonded cement compounds that make up walls, which can be disturbed when sanded in preparation for painting.

Asbestos that’s not weathered or broken is low risk, however the recommendation is to use a licensed asbestos removalist. 

Research by the NSW EPA found that one in four people aren’t disposing of asbestos safely. Alarmingly, some people are disposing of it in a kerbside waste bin, when asbestos should instead be disposed of by taking it to a landfill licenced to accept it.

NSW builders are also putting themselves at risk, with less than a quarter of trades professionals seeking advice from licensed asbestos professionals, and less than half wearing protective equipment such as a P2 mask when they dealt with the material.

For more information go to Asbestos NSW or read the Asbestos Research Reports.

For information on managing asbestos during floods read EPA’s asbestos in flood-affected areas.

The EPA proudly supports the NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee, which represents 14 state, local and commonwealth government agencies, Local Government NSW and NSW Aboriginal Land Council. The EPA will continue to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos and how to stay safe, and on behalf of the NSW government launched a major asbestos awareness campaign in 2022.