November - Asbestos Awareness Month

Asbestos Awareness month – November 2015

Asbestos Awareness Month is the initiative of the Asbestos Education Committee working in partnership with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute and is supported by various Asbestos Support Groups and governments at all levels throughout Australia.

Asbestos Awareness Month alerts Australians about the dangers of working with asbestos during home renovations and maintenance. With Australia having one of the highest incidences of asbestos related cancers in the world, and with confirmed cases of asbestos related cancers continuing to increase as a result of home maintenance and renovation, exposure to asbestos fibres is considered a major threat to the health of Australians.

EVERY home built or renovated before the mid 1980’s is likely to contain asbestos. If left undisturbed asbestos generally does not pose a health risk. However, when disturbed during renovations and home maintenance, asbestos fibres can be released into the air and when inhaled, can cause life-threatening diseases including lung cancer, pleural disease, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an incurable, terminal cancer.

Home renovations, particularly DIY are continuing to increase nationally. With a median gap of 40 years between exposure and diagnosis, and with a large number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of renovating or maintaining homes, the importance of education about the dangers of asbestos to homeowners cannot be overstated.

Working in partnership with the internationally recognised Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, Asbestos Awareness Month is the initiative of the Asbestos Education Committee, established to promote education campaigns enabling the Australian public to learn about the dangers of asbestos and how to manage it safely, in and around the home, specifically when renovating.

Prior to asbestos being banned in Australia in 2003, those most affected by asbestos were asbestos miners and their families, (first wave) followed by tradesman such as builders, plumbers and electricians and their families (second wave) exposed to fibres brought home on worker’s clothing.

With scientific studies demonstrating that current asbestos exposure is directly linked to DIY renovations, and with every Australian home built or renovated prior to 1987 likely to contain asbestos, the acknowledged ‘Third Wave’ of victims of asbestos related diseases are homeowners and families exposed during home renovations or maintenance.

In 2011, the Asbestos Education Committee ran their inaugural Asbestos Awareness Week which gained significant state and national media coverage. In 2012, the campaign was expanded to include all Australian states and territories, a community service announcement for radio and television and the world first interactive, experiential asbestos education exhibit, Betty - The ADRI House, a mobile home build to demonstrate where asbestos can be found in the home. In 2013, the campaign was extended from an awareness week to become national Asbestos Awareness Month to emphasise the importance of the messaging and to allow organisations to have maximum opportunity to participate in the campaign.

The national Asbestos Awareness Campaign has won multiple national and international awards for excellence and is supported by celebrity ambassadors, television and radio commercials and a strategic marketing campaign through multiple government and commercial organisations.

Asbestos Awareness Month has the support of a number of celebrity ambassadors including; Cherie Barber (Australia’s Queen of Renovating), Don Burke, Scott Cam, Barry Du Bois, John Jarratt and Scott McGregor.


1. Every home built or renovated in the years leading up to 1987, most likely contains asbestos!

2. A conservative estimate is that 1 in 3 homes in Australia contain asbestos, including brick homes.

3. If asbestos is undisturbed it generally does not pose a health risk.

4. Many Australians may unknowingly be putting their health and the health of their children, and neighbours at risk because they don’t really understand the dangers of working with asbestos or know where it might be found in and around their home.

5. During renovations or the demolition of homes containing asbestos, asbestos fibres can be released into the air and be inhaled leading to asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

6. Not only homes constructed of fibro contain asbestos. Asbestos may be found in every room in the home. It may be behind wall and floor tiles, in walls, ceilings, under floor coverings including lino and carpet and around hot water systems.

7. Only scientific testing of a sample of material by an accredited National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) asbestos testing laboratory can confirm the presence of asbestos. For information on testing and accredited laboratories in your area, visit or call (03) 9274 8200.

8. If asbestos materials are in good condition, paint them and leave them alone.


The need to educate ALL Australians about the dangers of asbestos is vital! A study (MJA in press) by Professor Anthony Johnson et al into ‘The prevalence of self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation in NSW residents’ showed:

¤ 60.5% of do it yourself (DIY) renovators reported being exposed to asbestos during home renovations.

¤ 53% reported their partner and 40% reported their children were also exposed to asbestos during home DIY home renovations.

¤ Non DIY renovators were less likely to be exposed or have their families exposed.

¤ 58% of DIY renovators cut AC Fibro Sheeting – this was the most common activity resulting in asbestos exposure.

¤ 37% of DIY renovators reported using a power tool to cut asbestos products.

Thus asbestos exposure is common during home renovations.


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