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November - Asbestos Awareness Month.

At first it was miners and tradesmen who fell victim to asbestos. Now the toxic product is stalking people at home. Home owners have been exposed to dangerous crumbling asbestos through an error in guidelines supposed to make houses and businesses safe.  State Govt guidelines have reclassified low density fibre board - LDB, from a "high risk" friable asbestos product to a bonded one making it far cheaper to remove but the industry groups say ignoring how much more dangerous it is to handle.  Low density fibre board classified as friable - breaks apart easily when disturbed releasing dangerous fibres.  Homes built later than 1988 should be asbestos free. Pre-1984 homes may contain asbestos in fibre cement cladding (fibro) and weatherboards, artificial brick cladding, flexible building boards, bathroom linings and cement tile underlay, corrugated cement roofing, flue pipes, textured paint, patched or repaired plaster, vinyl floor tiles or coverings.  Asbestos may be present in hot water pipes, old heaters, stoves and ceiling insulation, as well as brakes, clutches and gaskets on pre-2003 cars.
Hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings including thousands of schools and public buildings have LBD.  Reclassification makes removing the LDB cheaper by dropping the most of the work site safeguards.  It also makes it easier for low cost contractors to undercut experienced asbestos firms on tenders.  The State Govt says the guideline were changed in error and would be corrected.

According to the Asbestos Management Review Report released in August 2013, there have been 4700 deaths from mesothelioma in Australia since records began in the early ’80s. It’s estimated 25,000 more will die over the next 40 years.But as Asbestoswise (an information, support and awareness group) points out, considering almost everyone has been exposed to some asbestos fibres, these figures are mercifully small. More than 2500 people are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in Australia every year.  These include mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis (a condition that restricts breathing by hardening and scarring the lung) and pleural plaques (thickened patches on the chest and lung lining).

Asbestos is no longer mined in Australia and it hasn’t been imported or used since 2003. 

Any one considering home renovations should watch the Work Health and Safety video - "Losing Breath" the story of Adam Sager who died of mesothelioma (an asbestos related disease) at the age of 25.  Thanks so much to the Sager family for sharing for what must have been a traumatic time in their lives. This film shows the importance of spreading awareness of asbestos related diseases.

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