Asbestos is still in one in three Aussie homes 20 years later

By Jarrod
4 Min Read

The government body behind the eradication of the nation’s deadly asbestos has warned the danger it poses is “far from over”.

On 31 December 2003, a complete ban on all forms of asbestos was introduced in Australia after breathing in the mineral caused thousands to develop lung, ovary and larynx cancer or mesothelioma – an aggressive form of cancer that attacks internal organs. 

However, thanks to Australia being one of the highest consumers per capita of the material in the world, asbestos still exists in millions of buildings and structures across Australia 20 years on. 

Today, it is estimated that a shocking 6.2 million tonnes of asbestos materials remain in our built environment – with fibres remaining within one in three homes.

The lingering effects of asbestos are also still being felt by thousands of Australians every year. We have one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with 700 to 800 people diagnosed with the cancer every year. 

On average, two people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in Australia every day.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien says more needs to be done to eradicate Asbestos. 

“Mesothelioma is not going away. Asbestos remains the biggest killer of workers in Australia, and as long as we have materials in our buildings that contain asbestos, this terrible disease stays with us for decades to come,” he said in a statement provided to Build-it. 

“The prioritised, safe and coordinated removal of asbestos from buildings must be a priority for this Government.

“We reiterate our calls for a worldwide ban on this toxic material. The Australian data highlights that despite banning asbestos in all forms, we continue to see rising cases of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases.

“Knowing what we know about mesothelioma, it is the disease not one more person should experience.”

Where to find asbestos around your home

Despite the danger, a new report by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has found many Australians fail to safely dispose of asbestos due to a lack of knowledge about where the mineral can be found in a home.

Though many understand it is found in building insulation, it can also be used in cement pipes, floor tiles, adhesives, roofing, car parts like brake pads, textiles and textured paints.

More than one-third of home reno experts who encountered asbestos also admitted to disposing of it through illegal methods, such as throwing it into curbside bins.

According to the report, most local government bodies consider Asbestos a significant issue, but 20 per cent do not have active interventions for illegal asbestos disposal.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency CEO Justine Ross says Australians can’t forget about the risks of Asbestos.

“We sought to challenge complacency within the Australian community by reminding them that the danger from asbestos is far from over,” she said in the agency’s annual report.

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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.