Bill's Media Releases

DIY Renovators Warned of Asbestos Risk

The Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, today joined forces with Australia’s top rating renovating program The Block and major hardware retailer Mitre 10 to raise awareness for DIY renovators about the dangers of asbestos.

 Mr Shorten, along with The Block host Scott Cam and Mitre 10, launched a new brochure, “Identifying Asbestos in Your Home”, to help educate DIY renovators about where asbestos might be found in homes and what it may look like.

 Mr Shorten said DIY renovators should be aware that asbestos might well be lurking in their homes.

 “Asbestos is a silent killer that waits for many, many years before revealing itself.”

 “It’s estimated that asbestos is in 1 in 3 Australian homes on average, and many more in some suburbs and towns around the country.

 “Asbestos was used widely as a building material from 1921 through to 1987, but it wasn’t completely banned until 2003. Any homes built or renovated during that period may contain asbestos.

 “Homeowners and DIY renovators should be aware that asbestos becomes unsafe when its disturbed, cut, sanded or exposed to the environment. Therefore, you should be sure that asbestos is not present in your home before commencing any renovations,” Mr Shorten said.

 The producers of The Block ensured that this was the case when filming the top rating show. A full asbestos audit was conducted on the properties before the contestants or crew was allowed to begin work.

 The Block host Scott Cam said the safety of contestants, crew and neighbours was paramount.

 “As a tradie, I’m aware of the potential dangers from asbestos. DIY renovations are fantastic projects but they should always be done with safety at the top of your mind. Anyone who is thinking of putting a drill through a wall or knocking down a shed should first stop and think, could there be asbestos in there?,” Mr Cam said.

 “DIY renovators should keep in mind the age of their homes, hop online and check out the information in the brochure, and then make a decision about whether they need some expert advice.”

 “I think it’s become clear that many Australians think that the worst is over in terms of our exposure to asbestos, but the reality is that asbestos-related deaths are not expected to peak until 2020,” Mr Shorten said.

 “Tragically, we are expecting another 30-40,000 people to be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in the next 20 years. It’s vital that we don’t add to the potential death toll.”

 “Mesothelioma is an incurable and invariably fatal disease.”

 “It would be a tragedy for DIY renovators to be exposing themselves and their families to deadly asbestos, simply because they didn’t know it was there,” Mr Shorten said.

 The brochure “Indentifying Asbestos in Your Home” has been adapted from a book by Brian Sketcher of Asbestos Audits Queensland. It outlines the places asbestos may be found, including eaves, fake brick cladding, water heaters,  garden sheds and roofing, and behind tiling.

 The brochure, will be available online through the Comcare and The Block websites, and is being printed and distributed by Mitre 10 to their stores nationwide.

 Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804                                       

Asbestos-related diseases

Inhaled asbestos fibres are capable of inducing chronic inflammation of the lung tissue around them, and may cause a number of diseases.

  • Pleural disease – Asbestos may cause inflammation of the membranes (pleura) that line the lungs and chest cavities. The pleura may stiffen and thicken widely (diffuse thickening) or in patches (plaques), and space between the pleura may fill with fluid. These conditions restrict breathing.

  • Asbestosis – This is scarring of the lungs. The airways and lung tissue become so inflamed and scarred that it becomes hard for oxygen to pass from the lungs into the blood. The lungs become stiff and inelastic, making breathing progressively more difficult. Symptoms include tightness in the chest, dry cough, and in the later stages, a bluish tinge to the skin caused by lack of oxygen. Death from asbestos is usually associated with heart failure. The disease is usually seen in former by lack of oxygen. Death from asbestosis is usually associated with heart failure. The disease is usually seen in former asbestos miners, asbestos manufacturing workers and insulation workers, and may take a decade or more to develop.

  • Lung cancer – Exposure to asbestos fibres greatly increases a person’s risk of developing lung cancer, particularly if they are also a smoker.

  • Mesothelioma – This disease is incurable and invariably fatal. It is a cancer originating in the mesothelium, and found in the chest and abdominal cavities. It typically grows quickly and spreads widely before symptoms appear, making its early diagnosis and effective treatment very difficult.