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Asbestos Inspections: Escape the Third Wave

Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos related diseases in the world due to the country’s history of manufacturing and using asbestos containing products. According to The Australian Mesothelioma Registry, 575 Australians died from mesothelioma (one of the main asbestos related diseases) in 2016. Asbestos has been linked to other diseases including lung cancer.

Traditionally, mesothelioma has been a male dominated disease, with the majority of historical cases being workers that handled asbestos containing materials. The first wave of deaths occurred among asbestos mine workers and related trades that handled the raw asbestos materials as they were removed from the ground and turned into fibres. The second wave of asbestos related deaths occurred as workers that handled or used manufactured materials containing asbestos were exposed. This wave exposed an array of trade professionals including constructions workers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, rail workers and ship builders.

Currently there is growing concern over a third wave of exposure to asbestos containing materials as all of society may be exposed in their homes, workplaces or public areas. The increasing number of home owners conducting their own unregulated renovations may lead to asbestos exposure as many members of the public may be unaware of locations or materials that could contain asbestos.

At present, the data available is unclear as to whether home renovators are over-represented in newly diagnosed mesothelioma cases. As mesothelioma has a long latency period, averaging 35-40 years according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, it may be many decades before it is known to what degree this third wave of exposure has impacted Australians. A recent data projection by the Asbestos Safety & Eradication Agency predicts that over 19,000 cases of mesothelioma will be diagnosed within Australia between the years 2015 and 2100, of which 42% will be due to the third wave of exposure.

Asbestos can be found in many areas throughout the home. Older homes, constructed or renovated prior to the 1990s are likely to contain some form of asbestos. However, houses constructed pre- 2003 may still contain asbestos. Likely sources of asbestos in the home are asbestos cement sheeting, vinyl tiles and certain glues or putties. Fibres may have been added to these materials to give certain properties, such as fire or water resistance. If asbestos containing materials are disturbed or deteriorate over time, exposure to asbestos fibres may occur. To prevent exposure to asbestos fibres an asbestos inspection should be conducted prior to any renovation of refurbishment activities.

Asbestos Cement Sheeting is commonly used in the eaves and awnings of homes constructed or renovated prior to the 1990s.

An asbestos inspection should be conducted by a qualified person to identify if asbestos is present prior to conducting any renovation of refurbishment activities. Ideally Getex recommends that an asbestos inspection be conducted of the entire dwelling or building through an asbestos survey.

Getex analyses asbestos samples in their NATA certified laboratory.

If the asbestos inspection identifies any asbestos materials that may be disturb during renovation or refurbishment works, the asbestos will need to be removed by a suitably licensed company to prevent exposure. Once the asbestos has been safely removed and an asbestos clearance certificate is issued, normal activities may continue and renovation works continue safely with respect to asbestos. To avoid becoming another statistic, do not be complacent and ensure that you have your home inspected prior to any renovations.

Getex has many years of experience in conducting asbestos inspections and surveys and holds ISO/IEC 17020 NATA Accreditation in conducting asbestos inspections. Please feel free to contact us for further assistance by clicking here.

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