NSW residents need to be extra vigilant about the presence of asbestos when carrying out any renovation or building work in their homes.

This is the message sent out by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in a new campaign launched ahead of the ongoing Asbestos Awareness Week.  

Prior to the ban on asbestos in 2003, Australian homes and workplaces used over 3,000 products containing asbestos.

These included roofs, eaves, downpipes and insulation; interior walls (often concealed behind a non-asbestos covering); kitchen splashbacks; under lino, some carpets and tiles (and the cement compounds used to fix tiles); lagging around pipes, inside fuse boxes or as part of ventilation shafts; fences, garden sheds and small outdoor constructions such as chicken coops; or part of bonded cement compounds that made up walls, which can be disturbed when sanded in preparation for painting.

EPA acting executive director – hazardous incidents and environmental health, Arminda Ryan says, “The EPA is urging do-it-yourself renovators and tradies to be extra vigilant and be aware that asbestos can lurk in more places than you think. You can’t always tell what products contain asbestos just by looking at them. It can be hard to tell the difference between products with and without asbestos as some companies manufactured identical-looking products after the asbestos ban.”

“The EPA encourages DIYers to find out where asbestos can be found. It is best to be vigilant, take precautions and seek the help of experts.

“An asbestos check from a licensed asbestos assessor can advise where asbestos might be in your home and how to safely and legally dispose of it to protect your family, neighbours and community,” Ryan added.

Workers in the building, construction and vehicle trades, as well as plumbers, electricians and DIY renovators of older homes are especially at risk of encountering asbestos.

When left undisturbed, asbestos remains a low health risk. However, renovations can release asbestos fibres that can lead to deadly diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Over 4,000 Australians are estimated to die from asbestos-related diseases each year.

NSW residents and tradespersons are advised to use the Asbestos Finder on the asbestos.nsw.gov.au website to search for products or locations that may have asbestos.

The EPA is leading the ‘Asbestos lurks in more places than you’d think’ campaign in NSW during National Asbestos Awareness Week with participation from SafeWork NSW, iCare and councils.

The National Asbestos Awareness Week runs from November 25 until December 1.