This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Everything Australian Renovators Need To Know About Asbestos

Also, this is how to live safely with it.
Asbestos is commonly found in corrugated roofs from homes built before 1987.
Asbestos is commonly found in corrugated roofs from homes built before 1987.

Asbestos was embraced wholeheartedly by Australians. After all, we found rich deposits in Western Australia in the 1930s and had an industry keen to embrace a product that would help grow our young nation.

Long before the fibres were found to have deadly consequences, it was used in sheeting, roofing, insulation, children's play equipment, roads and more.

It wasn't until the 1950s that Australian experts recognised asbestos dust could be inhaled into the lungs and cause deadly cancer decades later.

Why was Asbestos popular?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was chap to mine and process. The fibres were strong, fire resistant and insulating, making them useful for a range of products.

Australia was one of the highest users per capita in the world up until the mid-1980s.

Today, asbestos-containing products are still found in a third of homes built before 1987 and the Asbestos Education Committee wants people to know it's not just found in fibro sheeting.

Check out the following slideshow and see if you recognise any of the asbestos-containing products.

This Is All Asbestos

If you recognised eaves or cladding from your own home that you think could contain asbestos, Renovating for Profit founder Cherie Barber said there was no need to panic.

"It's completely safe if it's painted and in good condition," Barber told HuffPost Australia.

"It's only if you disturb it that the fibres can become dangerous.

"The thing about Australians and home renovators is we tend to be a bit gung ho. There's a 'she'll be right' mentality but no. She won't be right if there's asbestos.

"You might be one of the lucky ones who is exposed to asbestos and doesn't develop asbestos poisoning but you also might also be one of the people who is only exposed once and does find 20 or 40 years later they've developed asbestosis."

How dangerous is asbestos?

Inhaling a small amount of asbestos increases the risk of pleural disease, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Most asbestos-related conditions develop 20-40 years after exposure.

Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer with no cure and the average survival time is 10-12 months following diagnosis.

A 2013 NSW study found 61 percent of DIY home renovators reported being exposed to asbestos, as well as 39 percent exposing their partner and 23 percent reported their children were also exposed.

Barber said her grandfather died of asbestosis and she didn't want to see home renovators have the same fate.

"I watched him pass away and the concerning truth is that today lots of home renovators are passing away because of asbestos poisoning.

"The first thing you need to do if contemplating a renovation is to get an asbestos identification survey. It will cost you about $500 but it will tell you exactly where asbestos is inside and outside the home so you and also tradesmen can be aware."

"I started full time professional renovaitng in 2000 and in 2001, I was working on a home and I'd been sanding a wall for about a day. I had safety goggles on but I was covered head to toe in dust. It looked like I'd been skiing. I now believe that to be an asbestos wall. I absolutely shiver in fright when I think about it.

"Today, there's no need to take that risk."

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact