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'kNOw asbestos' to educate DIY renovators

26 November, 2013

Home renovators are being encouraged to extend their DIY skills and take a free online course to help them identify and safely handle asbestos.

Cancer Council and the Department of Health in WA have developed the course in the face of growing concern about a 'third wave' of people contracting the deadly disease mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos while doing their own renovations.

Short-term or low-level exposure to asbestos from people doing home renovations could prove as big a threat as the death toll from asbestos mining, according to Terry Slevin, Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Occupational and Environmental Cancer Risk Committee.

"We're sadly all too aware of the thousands of tragic deaths of asbestos mine workers from mesothelioma, as well as those who worked with asbestos-containing materials such as builders, electricians and plumbers," he said.

"But with the burgeoning interest in DIY home renovation, we're now facing a third wave of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

"It's largely due to ignorance — people aren't sure how to handle asbestos, or even recognise asbestos in their homes."

Australia has the highest per-capita rate of asbestos-related disease in the world, with rates of malignant mesothelioma continuing to climb.

The 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.

Slevin said the course was easy to access and complete online: "It's a great way for DIYers to educate themselves and ensure they know what they were doing when embarking on any renovation job around the house, big or small.

"If you are going to attempt to handle and dispose of asbestos yourself, this course will give you the confidence to do it safely and minimise the risk to you and your family."

Slevin said however that renovators should be mindful there were some jobs they shouldn't take on themselves.

"Some asbestos removal tasks are too big for renovators to handle on their own and there are rules around the amount of asbestos they can handle," he said.

"People need to remember that asbestos is a hazardous substance. We would encourage a DIY renovator to use a licensed professional asbestos removalist for any amount over 10m2."

The course is available now at www.eLearning.cancer.org.au.

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