And today we’re talking about avoiding Mesothelioma, a disease which has been linked to Asbestos.

When it comes to home improvement, there’s no shortage of do-it-yourself shows on television. But while these shows highlight the glitz and glam of open floor plans and a “rustic chic” outcome, the real demolition and renovation work is often left on the cutting room floor.

For those planning to renovate their homes, not everything is going to be easy and there are plenty of dangers to watch out for. One of those hidden concerns that may not be top of mind is asbestos, a fibrous mineral that has been banned in Australia since 2003, but can still be found in homes across the country.

           

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral used throughout most of the 20th century in a wide variety of products and building materials, ranging from asbestos cements used for roofing, wall cladding and fencing to pipe insulation, textured paints and spray-on insulation. The mineral was a popular choice of builders during the mid-1940s through the 1980s because of its ability to resist high temperatures, durability, and chemical resistant qualities.

Unfortunately, those benefits come at a pretty steep cost. Asbestos has been linked to diseases like mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer with a low survival rate targeting the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen.

Asbestos was used in roofing material for its durability and fire-resistant properties

 

What to Look Out For?

One of the major problems associated with asbestos is that it’s incredibly difficult to identify without a lab test. The fibers are microscopic, so you won’t be able to see if a material holds asbestos just by looking at it unless it is marked as containing the mineral.

With that said, there are several things you can do to determine the likelihood of asbestos in your home. If you know when your house was built or last renovated, the year of construction can give you a huge hint as to whether or not the mineral is present in your building materials. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, if your house was built prior to 1990, it’s likely to have asbestos somewhere. And, the odds of asbestos being present in a given home only get higher as the age of the house increases. It should also be noted that homes built after 1990 and even up until the 2003 ban may still hide the mineral in asbestos cement materials.


When Should You Bring Someone In?

If you’re thinking about performing any type of renovation work and you suspect asbestos might have been used, it’s best to pay for an inspector to come in, take samples and have them analysed. The cost of testing is typically a couple hundred dollars, but an expert can come in, safely do the testing and then offer recommendations. It cannot be stressed enough - DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE ASBESTOS ON YOUR OWN.

Asbestos doesn’t typically pose a risk if it’s safely contained inside materials that are undamaged and in good condition. It’s when those materials are damaged or broken, like during a renovation project, that people run the risk of creating dust laced with the fibers. A trained professional can determine whether an asbestos-containing material is safe as is, should be encapsulated or if it needs to be removed entirely.

 Cancer causing asbestos fibers, magnified


Takeaways

Diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis, another chronic lung disease caused by asbestos exposure, are almost entirely preventable but it requires some smart thinking on your part. If you’re planning to do any work to your home and you can’t identify what materials are likely to contain the toxic fibers, don’t try to figure things out after you’ve put a sledgehammer through the wall. Stop, take a second, and call a professional.

It might cost a little more money in the long run, but the relief from knowing you’ve done the job safely and with as little risk as possible is worth so much more.