With around one in three Australian homes containing asbestos, and the rates of mesothelioma in Australia yet to peak due to the third wave of asbestos exposure, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency has conducted research to identify factors that would make home owners more likely to remove asbestos in the future.

According to the report findings, home owners would be more likely to remove asbestos from their property when the removal project was small, if there was a government subsidy such as free removal and disposal or an interest free loan, and when the asbestos was located in the kitchen or bathroom.

Research commissioned by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency looked at factors that would impact people’s decisions about asbestos removal, including where the asbestos is located, the size and cost of the project, and hypothetical government initiatives.

The study found that the cost of dealing with asbestos is the main factor in decisions relating to asbestos removal.

The study found that those on low incomes were consistently less likely to remove asbestos. It compared the attractiveness to homeowners of different forms of hypothetical interventions.

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

“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,” he says.

“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.”

“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,” Tighe says.

“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 also found:

• the most important factor in influencing decisions to remove is the size of the area of asbestos to be removed/price of removal – 54 percent. A government initiative was the second most likely factor – 33 percent – while the location of the asbestos was the third factor at 14 percent.

• homeowners are more likely to remove asbestos when the volume is smaller and the price of removal is lower.

• 81 percent of homeowners say that the likelihood of self-removal of asbestos was low.

• The primary motivation for asbestos removal was the negative associated health risk posed. Perceived likelihood of health impacts is associated with likelihood to remove asbestos.

• Intention to renovate was a trigger for the consideration of removal. But the potential presence of asbestos also acted a barrier to renovation work.

• Homeowners with plans to renovate are much more likely to remove asbestos immediately. Some people assumed that removal of asbestos would require the alternative living arrangements to be made, which acts as a barrier to removal.

• Asbestos in outdoor locations is perceived as less of a health risk than indoor asbestos, which is not always the case given that asbestos located outside is more prone to degradation through exposure to the weather.

The research was conducted by Ipsos Australia for ASEA.