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With the number of people today choosing to do their own renovations, Australia is potentially facing more illnesses and deaths associated with asbestos related disease. Therefore it is critical that DIY-ers understand the risks and management strategies associated with asbestos.
Australia has the second highest rate of mesothelioma deaths in the world. Mesothelioma is a race cancer caused only by exposure to asbestos and has affected more than 10,000 people across the nation since the early 1980’s. Cancer experts sadly predict that another 25,000 people in Australia will die from mesothelioma over the next 40 years.
Asbestos was popular with the manufacturers of building materials due to its resistance to fire, electrical current, heat and chemical damage. It is also extremely strong. As a result asbestos was commonly used throughout Australia in a range of products up until 1990. However asbestos was not completely banned in Australia until 2003. To date it is estimated that asbestos has been used in up to 3000 different products including household building materials such as:
- Ceiling tiles
- Fibre Cement sheeting (fibro)
- Vinyl tiles, vinyl sheeting and laminate products
- Insulation material
- ‘Zelimite’ – electrical switchboard backing
- Hessian carpet underlay
- Vermiculite ceiling (bubble/popcorn ceiling)
- Low density board (LDB)
- Plaster compounds
- Textured paint
- Water pipes
- Imitation brick cladding
- Roof tiles
- Super six corrugated roof sheeting
The good news is that asbestos related disease is preventable if exposure to asbestos is properly managed. Before embarking on your next renovation project it is best practice to have materials that you suspect of being asbestos, tested by an accredited laboratory. Once the results are returned you can make an informed decision regarding the safest way to proceed with your project. Taking an asbestos sample is simple and very safe provided the correct procedures are followed and the correct personal protective equipment is used.
If in doubt please contact a qualified asbestos consultant to conduct the sampling procedure on your behalf.