For many, the threat of asbestos exposure in Australia appeared to be on the decline.
The material hasn't been used in the construction and manufacturing industries in decades, and reports of new asbestos discoveries left the spotlight for some time.
However, a new report published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows that anyone who has conducted DIY projects in their home, or works in the skilled trades and home repair business, may be more at risk of exposure than previously thought.
This exposure in the home can lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma, which scientists say can be a direct result of exposure to asbestos that is found in the fibro sheeting in many Australian homes.
To determine this, experts heard from 3,612 respondents, 1,597 of which said they had performed their own home renovations. About 53 per cent of these respondents considered themselves avid DIY renovators, and among these respondents, 61.4 per cent said they had been exposed to asbestos during a project.
Another 39 per cent said their partner had also been exposed, and nearly a quarter said their children had been exposed during renovations.
Asbestos an 'important problem in NSW'
The experts who conducted the survey concluded that so much exposure to asbestos will likely have serious consequences down the line.
"Self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation is common," the researchers wrote in the report.
"This preventable exposure could place adults and children at risk of [malignant mesothelioma] many years into the future. Although such exposure is self-reported and ideally should be verified, this study identifies a potentially important problem in NSW."
The experts asserted that these findings should not be taken lightly. They wrote that asbestos inhalation is "established beyond doubt" as the primary cause of fatal cases of mesothelioma, and extensive research has been done that shows asbestosis, silicosis and other lung diseases are caused by exposure to the fibrous mineral.
Current literature shows that more than 125 million people have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace alone. Startlingly, this number doesn't include the number of people who may have been exposed to the carcinogen while doing their own repairs at home.
The new study sheds light on how many people may have been exposed – and are still at risk – in homes throughout New South Wales.