Will home remodeling projects lead to more cases of mesothelioma?

A newspaper article from Australia raises the prospect that home remodeling, in part promoted by television programs, will create more victims of asbestos. The story reports that many of the victims could be women.

Barry Robson, the president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, was reported as saying that TV shows in Australia had encouraged women to take on “DIY renovation with gusto.” The fear is that they could develop asbestosis or mesothelioma from the exposure to asbestos-laden products.

In the U.S., many individuals who worked in industrial area suffered high levels of asbestos exposure. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters, shipbuilding and electricians were the most likely to have been exposed to asbestos and were vulnerable to asbestos-related diseases.

In Australia, like the U.S., a great deal of asbestos was used in home construction of home built before the early 1990s. In older homes, there are many sources of dangerous mesothelioma-causing asbestos.

From ceiling tile and vinyl floor tiles and linoleum to roofing material and air duct insulation, asbestos fibers could be lurking in many benign-looking products. The danger for home do-it-yourselfers is that while the fiber may present minimal risk when in solid material, during remodeling, much of the material may be disturbed.

Sawing or drilling floor or ceiling tile can spray asbestos fiber laden dust in great clouds, contaminating all the surfaces in the home. Airborne asbestos dust present a great risk and professional asbestos abatement services are subject to strict regulations for management of dust and air movement within a structure when asbestos-containing materials are removed.

If you are considering remodeling an older home, you investigate to determine if you home contains any asbestos products and consult with a professional if they need to be removed during the course of construction.

Source: The West Australian, “Asbestos fears over DIY craze,” November 26, 2012.