Your neighbors can quietly throw a potentially deadly substance in your trash – and Covid has only made the problem worse.
An increase in containment renovations due to Covid is fueling a potentially fatal asbestos-related health crisis, recent research has shown.
According to the Asbestos Safety Eradication Agency, 28 percent of people who found asbestos during home renovations admitted to disposing of it illegally, most often by placing it in their household trash or with a neighbor.
This statistic is of particular concern when a single exposure, through something as harmless as accidental inhalation, can cause irreparable damage.
This includes an increased risk of lung, ovarian and laryngeal cancer and mesothelioma – a rare and aggressive tumor that appears in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart (also known as the mesothelium) .
Sharing a statement on the occasion of Asbestos Awareness Week (22-28 November), CEO of the Asbestos Safety Eradication Agency, Justine Ross said there is “no level of safe exposure to asbestos fibers “.
Ms Ross also rejected the misconception that “asbestos-related diseases are a thing of the past”, adding that the highly carcinogenic substance is found in a third of homes in Australia.
“Asbestos still causes cancer in Australians,” she said.
“About 700 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in Australia each year and the estimated annual health system expenditure for mesothelioma is over $ 27 million per year.”
How to get rid of asbestos safely?
In reality, asbestos is still expected to remain in “significant quantities” until 2060. This is based on the current rate of disposal of the estimated six million tonnes of inherited asbestos in Australia.
“Australia has huge amounts of inherited asbestos in the built environment, which is reaching the end of its product life,” Ms. Ross said.
“We are using technology to help us better understand its location and density in order to better manage it. “
Previously used as an insulating material in construction projects, asbestos was previously added to materials like paper, cement or fabric to make them stronger.
In Australia, the buildings with the greatest risk of asbestos were built between 1940 and 1990, with a total ban on the use, import, manufacture, storage, transport and sale of asbestos from December 31, 2003.
Despite this, it is possible to safely remove asbestos – which must be done by a licensed asbestos remover, that is, not toss it in a municipal garbage can.
The Asbestos Safety Eradication Agency is also developing a “National Residential Asbestos Heat Map Using Data-Driven Artificial Intelligence” to find the location and density of past asbestos use in Australia.
Expected completion next year, Ms Ross, said it would allow governments to target removal programs and protect homeowners and traders.
“We want Australians to treat asbestos with the same caution as electricity,” said Ms Ross. seek professional help to locate, manage or delete it.
This move could be particularly important given the unprecedented number of renovations currently being undertaken by Australian homeowners.
According to February 2021 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the approved value of home renovations exceeded $ 1 billion for the very first time. The latest figures from March 2021 show that figure has risen to $ 1.14 billion.
In comparison, the average monthly value of approved home renovations was only $ 680 million in 2019.
What happens if you are exposed to asbestos?
Often referred to as the “silent killer,” the effects of asbestos exposure may not manifest for five to 20 years.
Besides mesothelioma, longer term exposure to asbestos can also cause a lung disease called asbestosis. This happens when scar tissue is created, as asbestos fibers continually scar the lungs causing them to stiffen.
Signs of asbestosis may include shortness of breath, cracking in the lungs when breathing, persistent dry cough, high blood pressure, and weight loss of appetite.