It has been 20 years since asbestos was banned in Australia and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is urging the public to increase vigilance to avoid asbestos exposure.
In National Asbestos Awareness Week (20-26 November) the spotlight is on the rise in asbestos-related disease cases, highlighting a concerning gap between education and exposure rates.
Executive Director for Programs and Innovation Arminda Ryan said millions of residential and commercial buildings still contain asbestos.
“Whether working as a tradesperson or undertaking DIY home renovations, it is crucial that you work in a way where asbestos exposure is minimised.
“As the lead agency for the NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee, we have a responsibility to set a high standard across Government for reducing asbestos-related issues,” said Ms Ryan.
“Asbestos can cause serious harm to the public and the environment.
“4000 people die annually from asbestos-related diseases – roughly four times the annual road toll – so improved education around the serious risks of exposure is crucial.
“There is no safe amount of asbestos exposure, but some types of exposure are more dangerous than others; such as working to remove the material,” Ms Ryan said.
Exposure rates are partially influenced by the popularity of ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) home renovations in Australia. Asbestos fibres become dangerous when disturbed, damaged, or deteriorated; all which can happen when undertaking construction or renovation works.
Some of the products that may contain asbestos include:
- roofs, eaves, downpipes, and insulation
- interior walls (often with a non-asbestos covering on the outside)
- in the adhesive under lino, carpets and behind tiles fences, garden sheds and small outdoor constructions like chicken coops
- lagging around pipes, inside fuse boxes or as part of ventilation shafts
- as part of bonded cement compounds that make up walls, which can be disturbed when sanded in preparation for painting.
Risk to people and the environment can be minimised through hiring a licensed asbestos assessor or removalist, prior to beginning works where asbestos may be involved.
Learn more about how you can better protect yourself, your family, and the environment from asbestos exposure at https://www.asbestos.nsw.gov.au/.