Deadly DIY: Online course safeguards home renovators from asbestos

Cancer Council Queensland is warning against a third wave of deadly asbestos-related disease, urging DIY renovators to access an online safety course to reduce their risk.

Cancer Council and the Department of Health in WA have authored an online education course to remind Queenslanders about the dangers of asbestos, and to teach home renovators how to identify and safely handle the substance.

A recent study* in the Medical Journal of Australia found 61 per cent of DIY renovators surveyed were exposed to asbestos during home renovations.

Nearly 40 per cent reported that their partner had been exposed, and more than 22 per cent reported that their children had been exposed to potentially deadly fibres.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said short-term or occasional exposure to asbestos-related materials could cause mesothelioma and other fatal cancers.

“Alarmingly, Queensland’s home-renovation boom could see a future increase in asbestos-related diseases if renovators don’t take appropriate safety measures,” Ms Clift said.

“Queenslanders needed to be fully aware of potential asbestos in walls, ceilings and floors of their home before undertaking any renovations.

“When breathed in, asbestos fibres raise a person’s risk of asbestosis, lung, larynx and ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other diseases of the lungs and stomach.

“While many renovators may feel fine today, asbestos-related illness and disease can take between 10 and 40 years to develop.”

The incidence of mesothelioma in Queensland has risen sharply since the early 1980s, rising from 17 cases a year in 1982 to 169 in 2012.

Less than half of all Queenslanders diagnosed with mesothelioma survive for one year, and only four per cent of people will survive for at least five years after diagnosis.

The online learning course, ‘kNOw asbestos in your home’, is designed to give the DIY renovator basic knowledge about asbestos, and the risks and safe practices when working with or removing small amounts of asbestos-containing material.

“If you are going to attempt to handle asbestos yourself, this course will give you the confidence to do it safely and minimise the risk to you and your family,” Ms Clift said.

“Please be mindful that some jobs will need to be taken care of by a professional – it is essential that people seek professional advice prior to dealing with asbestos in order to prevent their potential risk of cancer.

“Asbestos is a hazardous substance. We encourage all DIY renovators to use a licensed professional asbestos removalist for any amount over 10m2.”

‘kNOw asbestos in the workplace’ is available at

More than 2500 Queenslanders have been diagnosed with mesothelioma since 1982, and of those diagnosed, an estimated 208 Queenslanders were still alive at the end of 2012.

For more information about Cancer Council Queensland, visit or call Cancer Council’s 13 11 20.

For more information and interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland P. (07) 3634 5372 M. 0409 001 171

*Asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales (
**Leigh J, Davidson P, Hendrie L, Berry D. Malignant mesothelioma in Australia, 1945-2000. Am J Ind Med 2002 Mar;41(3):188-201 [Abstract available at].