What would make home renovators remove asbestos?

16 August 2018

The Australian Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) has released the findings of its research that looked at the factors that would make home owners more likely to remove asbestos in the future. The research comes after the Agency found the rates of mesothelioma in Australia are yet to peak due to a third wave of asbestos exposure.

The research looked at factors such as where the asbestos is located, the size and cost of the project, and hypothetical government initiatives, finding that the cost of dealing with asbestos is the main factor in decisions relating to asbestos removal. The report found home owners are more likely to remove asbestos when the volume is smaller and the price of removal is lower.

The levels of knowledge people have around the risks of asbestos and how much they understand about the potential impacts on their health also influence decisions about removal.

Only one in ten home owners said they were virtually certain or very likely to self-remove asbestos, while 81% say the likelihood of self-removal is low.

ASEA chief executive Peter Tighe says the research will help authorities understand the most effective interventions in encouraging home owners to remove asbestos from their properties.

 “One in three Australian homes contain asbestos, yet most people can’t correctly identify it and there are low levels of awareness among home owners of the risks,” says Peter.   

“There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. The property boom and the popularity of DIY home renovation means that Australians will be at risk of dying of an asbestos-related disease for a long time to come. The eradication of legacy asbestos from our built environment needs to be an urgent national priority if we want to save lives.”

Other findings from the report include that the primary motivation for asbestos removal is the negative associated health risk posed, those on low incomes were consistently less likely to remove asbestos and asbestos in outdoor locations is perceived as less of a health risk than indoor asbestos. This is not always the case given that asbestos located outside is more prone to degradation through exposure to the weather.

“This research focuses on two of the biggest barriers to asbestos removal in the residential sector – the costs involved to the individual home owner, and levels of knowledge about asbestos,” says Peter.

“Better informed people make safer decisions, and the more understanding of the health impacts of exposure to asbestos the more likely they are to remove it.  However, the research shows that the majority of people would not remove asbestos, and even confident DIY renovators still have a long way to go in fully understanding the problem.”

The research, which was conducted by Ipsos Australia for ASEA, also found that intention to renovate is a trigger for the consideration of removal, while a government initiative was the second most likely factor in influencing decisions to remove asbestos behind size and price of removal.

“It provides the community and governments at every level with the evidence needed to target interventions and education campaigns,” says Peter.

As the editor of BUILD I have a keen interest in sustainable housing and new technologies.