Study Confirms Mesothelioma Danger for Home Renovators

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An Australian study reconfirms that performing home renovations on homes built before the 1980’s can put a person at increased risk for mesothelioma if proper precautions are not taken.

Australian workers unions that have been vocal in recent months about the risk of mesothelioma to home renovators now have a published study to back them up.  Researchers from the University of Western Australia have just published a study on the incidence of malignant mesothelioma in their region and the news is not good. Using the Western Australian Mesothelioma Register, the team reviewed all cases of malignant mesothelioma diagnosed in western Australia from 1960 to the end of 2008 and determined the primary source of asbestos exposure in each case.

Of the 1,631 people diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1960 and 2008, 87 were attributed to asbestos exposure that occurred during home maintenance or renovation.  All of those cases occurred since 1981. During the last 4 years of the study, home renovators accounted for 8.4% of all men and 35.7% of all women diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.

The researchers compared the cases of home renovation-triggered mesothelioma with cases of miners, other asbestos workers, and residents of Wittenoom, a town abandoned because of high levels of asbestos. They found that, not only was the incidence of people contracting mesothelioma after home renovation on the rise, but the time it took to come down with mesothelioma (latency period) in home exposure cases also appeared to be shorter than it was with other types of exposure.

In writing about their findings in the Medical Journal of Australia, the researchers concluded, “Malignant mesothelioma cases related to renovation will probably continue to increase because of the many homes that have contained, and still contain, asbestos building products.”

The Australian study carries a clear message for those considering home renovation in any part of the world.  A vast number of homes built before the 1980’s contain asbestos in materials ranging from floor and ceiling tiles to insulation, shingles, paint, tape and wallboard.  Disturbing this hidden asbestos, by drilling, sanding or removing it, can release toxic dust and put anyone in the vicinity who is not properly protected at risk for mesothelioma.


Olsen, NJ et al, “Increasing incidence of malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos during home maintenance and renovation”, September 5, 2011, Medical Journal of Australia, pp. 271-4.

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