Asbestos: The dangers of the DIY dream

23/08/2019

Our asbestos lawyers are the most experienced Asbestos compensation team in Victoria. If you need advice about potential asbestos exposure, contact us today on 1300 57 25 18 to speak to an expert for a free assessment

Getting stuck into that dream renovation should be an exciting time for you and your family, but while you’re choosing paints, drafting grand ideas and getting your Bunnings on, you should be mindful of one of the potential dangers of DIY.

Before you go knocking down any walls, cutting, drilling, sanding or even moving any materials, it’s really important that you are aware of exactly what kind of materials you’re dealing with. Dangerous asbestos dust may be lurking in these old materials and, if disturbed, they can pose a serious health risk to you and others.

Asbestos is a fibre that was widely used in several building materials before it was discovered to be deadly when inhaled.

Some places that asbestos is commonly found:

  • Cement sheeting
  • Flues to fireplaces
  • Insulation
  • Carpet underlay
  • Tiling
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Splashbacks
  • Fencing
  • Gutters

Asbestos exposure is not just a thing of the past. Though it was perhaps once more commonly associated with the notorious Wittenoom mine, the scores of workers and other innocent people affected by its prevalence in building materials, our asbestos lawyers are now seeing a “third-wave” of modern asbestos exposure victims: DIY renovators.

Unfortunately, Australia’s history of widespread asbestos usage means that many of our old sheds, granny-flats and more can contain the asbestos fibre that – once airborne and breathable – can cause life-threatening asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

As a general rule, any structure that was built or renovated before 1990 can be considered likely to contain asbestos materials, and anything built before the mid-1980s is highly likely to contain asbestos materials.

If you’re worried or unsure about what materials you’re dealing with, it is highly recommended that you consult a licensed professional first.

The Dangers of DIY

It seems many people may still associate asbestos exposure solely with a bygone era of dangerous mining practices and older buildings that no longer exist, not realizing that dormant asbestos fibres are still to be found in plenty of existing structures. In fact, 1 in 3 Australian homes can contain asbestos in unexpected places.

Consider these alarming statistics from an Asbestos Awareness Campaign study:

  • 5% of DIY renovators reported asbestos exposure during their renovations
  • 40% reported their children were exposed to asbestos fibres during renovations
  • 58% of renovators reported cutting AC Fibro Sheeting containing asbestos

Asbestos is now a completely banned material in Australia (as of 2003), but that doesn’t mean that there is no risk of asbestos to be found in existing structures today.

If you think you might have asbestos on your property – don’t panic. Don’t try to remove or destroy the asbestos yourself. Most asbestos materials that are in good condition are not dangerous if they are left alone. While there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres, they must first be disturbed to become dangerous.

It is not recommended that you pursue a DIY renovation if you are planning to be removing or disturbing asbestos materials. However, the Department of Health has prepared a really helpful guide with key Dos and Don’ts for handling asbestos materials if you do decide to go ahead with a DIY renovation. You can find it here.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, you should consult your GP immediately. You can also register your exposure with us here at Gordon Legal.

If you would like any advice about potential exposure, our friendly experts are available to chat. Contact us anytime on 1300 57 25 18