Asbestos Awareness Month 2017

Thursday, 09 November 2017

With Asbestos Awareness Day coming up on Friday 24 November and National Asbestos Awareness Month happening throughout November, Council is urging homeowners, renovators and tradespeople to take warnings about asbestos seriously when renovating or maintaining homes, and visit to learn what they need to know to manage asbestos safely.

“Australia was among the largest consumers of asbestos-containing materials in the world, with asbestos used in the manufacture of a broad range of building and decorator products that can still be found in one in three brick, weatherboard, fibro and clad Australian homes,” said Borough of Queenscliffe Mayor, Councillor Tony Francis.

“It can be in any home built or renovated before 1987; under floor coverings, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings and ceiling space or insulation, eaves, garages, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, home extensions, garages, outdoor toilets, backyard and farm structures, chook sheds and even dog kennels,” said Cr Francis.

If well-maintained and left undisturbed, asbestos is unlikely to pose a health risk. However, if asbestos-containing materials are disturbed and fibres are released, they can cause asbestos-related diseases including incurable malignant mesothelioma, which can develop between 20 to 50 years after inhaling asbestos fibres. The average survival time is 10 to 12 months following diagnosis.

Renovators are encouraged to visit for user-friendly information including the Asbestos in Your Home – The Ultimate Renovators Guide video and the 20 Point Safety Check. They can search Australia’s only online Asbestos Product Database and download Fact Sheets and the user-friendly Asbestos Awareness Healthy House Checklist – A Homeowner’s Guide to Identifying Asbestos-Containing Materials.

The Checklist is a step-by-step guide that helps homeowners conduct a fast and easy visual inspection of their home. Using the Guide homeowners can easily identify any suspected asbestos-containing materials and note locations to avoid disturbing asbestos, and identify when to engage an asbestos assessor or removalist to prevent families from being exposed to dangerous fibres.

There are specific resources available for tradespeople as well, including Fact Sheets and the Residential Checklist for Tradies – A Tradespersons Guide to Asbestos. These enable simple visual inspections of properties to identify potential risks and ensure that asbestos is managed safely and in accordance with regulations.

Prior to 1987, many homes were constructed from low-cost fibro (bonded asbestos cement sheeting) to meet the growing demand for housing and it was common practice for builders and labourers to bury broken pieces of asbestos materials on building sites. These can be exposed when digging, gardening or redeveloping properties or land.

Fibro was used in the construction of garages, sheds and extensions to existing brick or weatherboard homes, while ‘weekenders’ or ‘shacks’ were often built from fibro to create low-cost holiday homes.

In rural and regional areas, many farm buildings were constructed from fibro as a cost-effective means of housing equipment and stock and it was also widely used to construct ‘sleep-out’ additions to farmhouses, workers' accommodation and community housing throughout much of regional Australia.

Kathryn Heiler is Chair of the Asbestos Education Committee, the organisation working in partnership with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) and the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) to deliver the National Asbestos Awareness Month Campaign and educate homeowners, renovators, handymen and tradespeople about the dangers of asbestos and how to manage it safely.

“There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres, so unless homeowners, renovators, tradespeople and handymen know what to look for and how to manage and dispose of asbestos safely, they are putting their lives and the lives of others at risk,” Ms Heiler said.

“With 13 Australians dying of asbestos-related diseases (12 from malignant mesothelioma) and another 13 being diagnosed with mesothelioma every week, the commitment of the Borough of Queenscliffe Council in supporting this national awareness and education campaign will help inform more Australians than ever before about the dangers of asbestos and how to manage it safely.”

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