An ad campaign launched by Australia’s top asbestos awareness organization has issued a warning about the mesothelioma risk for homeowners doing renovations.
Asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma around the world. Australia has a long history with both asbestos and mesothelioma. The country banned asbestos in 2003 but there is still plenty of it around. Thousands of homes and buildings built before 1990 contain asbestos.
There is a mesothelioma risk for homeowners who come in contact with this asbestos. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly cancer that can kill within months of diagnosis.
If people remodel or attempt renovations without having their home checked for asbestos first, the campaign says they are playing “renovation roulette” with their lives.
How a Remodel Can Pose a Mesothelioma Risk for Homeowners
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral. It was a popular additive to more than 3,000 construction products, including insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, wallboard, and cement.
When left undisturbed, it does not usually pose a health risk. But when asbestos fibers become airborne, such as during a renovation or remodeling project, they can pose a mesothelioma risk for homeowners or anyone nearby.
The fibers stay in the body of a person who inhales or swallows asbestos dust. Asbestos fibers are sharp and harder than other foreign substances for the body to expel. Over time, asbestos fibers can trigger cancerous changes in the cells of internal membranes.
When these changes occur in the membrane around the lungs, a person may get pleural mesothelioma. If they happen in the membrane around the abdomen, the result is peritoneal mesothelioma.
Australian Women and the “Third Wave” of Mesothelioma
The mesothelioma risk for homeowners is highest among Australian women. Women make up the biggest segment of renovators in Australia. The Australian Mesothelioma Registry released new figures this week showing a 67 percent rise in mesothelioma deaths among women since 2012. That compares to just over 9 percent for men.
“With the alarming increase in women’s deaths from asbestos-related diseases, it’s vital that we start to respect the dangers of asbestos and always have older homes inspected by licensed asbestos assessors before taking up tools,” warns Cherie Barber, host of a popular Australian renovation reality show. Ms. Barber is Ambassador for the National Asbestos Awareness Campaign.
The mesothelioma risk for homeowners in Australia is part of the third wave of malignant mesothelioma. The first wave of mesothelioma happened among mostly male miners and manufacturers. In some cases, the wives who washed their contaminated clothes also contracted mesothelioma.
The second wave occurred among people (mostly men) in construction trades who worked with asbestos-containing products. The third wave represents the mesothelioma risk for homeowners and others involved in renovating Australian buildings that contain asbestos.
The US EPA says there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. The mesothelioma risk for homeowners can be eliminated by hiring professionals to inspect and remove asbestos before attempting renovations.
“Aussie women told ‘Stop Playing Renovation Roulette!’ as Mesothelioma Deaths Rise by 67%”, Asbestos Awareness Australia, November 19, 2021, https://prwire.com.au/newsroom/asbestos-awareness/