DIY turns deadly

Monday, 20 June, 2005

The national addiction with home renovation is being blamed for a huge surge in cases of the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma, so much so that home renovators are being warned that even small jobs can be fatal. New figures in Victoria show mesothelioma cases have more than quadrupled since 1982, and Queensland Health figures show the number of terminal asbestos cases has risen from 49 to 1993 to 73 in 1998 - a 50% increase in just five years.

Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia president Barry Robson said the disease was once limited to people exposed to asbestos at work, such as wharfies and trades people, and their families. But the new figures reflected a third group - those exposed to asbestos fibres during home renovations up to 30 years ago, he said.

Experts note that DIY renovators could account for up to 25% of mesothelioma cases with the number tipped to rise in the near future because of the time-lag of at least 15 years between exposure to asbestos and the onset of mesothelioma.

"We were always worried about the third wave - this is the third wave, it's the start of it," Robson said.

"It's going to keep increasing because of the home renovations."

Queensland Asbestos Related Support Society president Shirley White said something had to be done to stop "people unknowingly exposing themselves to a substance which can cause creeping cancer".

White likened the disease to a jellyfish with tentacles in the chest and lungs.

"One fibre and around 30 years is all it takes," she said.

She said many renovators were unaware the deadly substance was extremely common - found in hair-dryers, ceilings, ovens, linoleum tiles, downpipes and fences. In fact, one in three homes built before 1987 contains the fibres.

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