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Asbestos Education Committee and The Asbestos Diseases Research Institute

Asbestos Warnings Continue To Fall On Deaf Ears

MEDIA RELEASE: 23 NOVEMBER 2017

Although 1 Australian Dies Of Asbestos-Related Diseases Every 14 Hours

ASBESTOS WARNINGS CONTINUE TO FALL ON DEAF EARS

“PREVENTION IS THE ONLY CURE”

Friday 24 November is Asbestos Awareness Day - National Asbestos Awareness Week 2017 

 

Although at least one Australian dies from asbestos-related diseases every 14 hours, and with deaths predicted to rise due to homeowners and tradies inhaling asbestos fibres when renovating or maintaining properties, tragically the warnings continue to fall on deaf ears.

 

Some believe that asbestos-related deaths remain buried deep in Australia’s past but this is most definitely not the case. Every week, 13 Australians die of asbestos-related diseases - 12 from malignant mesothelioma and another 13 are diagnosed with this incurable cancer caused from inhaling asbestos fibres when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed.

 

Don Burke OAM, Ambassador for the National Asbestos Awareness Campaign said, “Even faced with these tragic statistics, people continue to ignore the warnings and unnecessarily expose themselves, their partners and sadly their kids to asbestos fibres that are known to kill.”

 

“Due to Australia’s legacy of wide-spread use of asbestos-containing materials in homes and non-residential properties there remains a very real and present danger, particularly for DIY renovators and tradies who risk disturbing these products in their day-to-day work,” he said.

 

If asbestos is disturbed during renovations or in the demolition of homes or non-residential properties and fibres are released that can be inhaled, this can cause asbestos-related diseases including lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma which can develop 20-50 years after inhaling fibres - there is no cure and the average survival time after diagnosis is just 10-12 months.

 

In the past, Australians diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma were primarily men (including tradies) caused from work-related exposure. However, according to the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (2016) around one third of Australians exposed to asbestos fibres occurred in non-work-related situations, of these around 50% were women with exposure most common among people who had done major home renovations involving asbestos products.

 

In the ‘Asbestos exposure during home renovation in NSW’ study, more than 61% of DIY renovators reported asbestos exposure during renovations, 40% reported their partner had been exposed and almost 23% reported that their children had also been exposed to asbestos fibres - that is 1 in 4 children being exposed to the deadly fibres during DIY renovations.

 

With asbestos exposure linked to DIY and renovating, the evidence points to an increase in Australians (including women and young Australians) who will be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases through non work-related exposure.

 

“It may not be this year, or even ten years from now, but rest assured that if Australian’s continue to ignore the warnings there will be families across Australia devastated by the news that a loved one is diagnosed with a deadly asbestos-related disease that could have been prevented,” he said.

 

“While we don’t know exactly how many asbestos fibres it takes to cause asbestos-related diseases, what we do know is that inhaling fibres is the only known cause and the greater the number of fibres inhaled, the greater the risk to health.

 

“Because Australia was among the highest consumers of asbestos in the world, it’s going to be many years (if ever), before ACMs are removed completely from properties so every Australian must make it their business to learn how to identify and manage asbestos safely because prevention is the only known cure.”

 

“With Australia’s passion for renovating fuelled by ever popular DIY lifestyle programs, if Australians don’t start taking the warnings seriously, we could be risking our lives and the lives of those we love,” Don Burke said.

 

Asbestos remains in one third of Aussie homes – it can be in any brick, weatherboard, fibro or clad home built or renovated prior to 1987, including apartments. If well maintained and left undisturbed asbestos is unlikely to pose a health risk. It’s only when these materials are disturbed and fibres are released and are inhaled, that they can cause asbestos-related diseases including incurable mesothelioma.

 

Asbestos materials were used everywhere in homes and in non-residential properties - lurking under floor coverings including carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings and ceiling space (insulation), eaves, garages, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, home extensions, garages, outdoor toilets, backyard and farm structures, chook sheds and even dog kennels.

 

Professor Ken Takahashi, Director the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) said, “With the number of Australian’s affected by asbestos-related diseases predicted to remain high in coming years, instead of ignoring the warnings, homeowners and tradies have a responsibility to learn the dangers of asbestos and how to manage it safely to prevent exposure to fibres that can develop into a deadly diseases including mesothelioma.”

 

If you’re thinking of renovating and you think a product might be asbestos, play it safe, treat it as if it is asbestos and take all the necessary precautions including getting the experts in. A licenced asbestos assessor can come to your home and assess the property and if you need to remove asbestos, only use licenced asbestos removalists because it’s not worth the risk!

 

When it comes to asbestos and renovating, GO SLOW - Asbestos it’s a NO GO! Visit asbestosawareness.com.au to find out what you need to know!

 

 -ENDS-

 

Visit asbestosawareness.com.au for information and useful, practical resources including:

·       Asbestos Awareness - 20 Point Safety Check (asbestos risks and how to manage asbestos safely)

·       Asbestos in Your Home – The Ultimate Renovators Guide (easy to follow video hosted by Australia’s Renovation Queen and Asbestos Awareness Ambassador, Cherie Barber)

·       Asbestos Awareness Healthy House Checklist – A Homeowner’s Guide to Identifying Asbestos-Containing Materials (user-friendly step-by-step guide to identifying asbestos in the home)

·       Fact Sheets for Homeowners (when, why and how to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

·       Residential Checklist for Tradies – A Tradespersons Guide to Asbestos (Identify the product types and locations in residential properties)

·       Trade Specific Checklist for Tradies – A Tradespersons Guide to Asbestos (Tailored to trades)

·       Fact Sheets for Tradies (when, why and how to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

·       Asbestos Product Database – (Australia’s only comprehensive online asbestos product database)

 

-ENDS-

For interview requests contact Insight Communications - 02 9518 4744

Clare Collins: 0414 821 957 - clare@insightcommunications.net.au 

Alice Collins:  0414 686 091 - alice@insightcommunications.net.au

For images of asbestos-containing materials: https://asbestosawareness.box.com/v/AsbestosAwarenessImages

Journalist Notes: For information about asbestos, resources and statistics see page 3 of the attached or https://asbestosawareness.box.com/v/AsbestosAwarenessDayRelease 

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