Asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales

Eun-Kee Park, Deborah H Yates, Rebecca A Hyland and Anthony R Johnson
Med J Aust 2013; 199 (6): 410-413. || doi: 10.5694/mja12.11802


Objective: Asbestos exposure is causally associated with the development of malignant mesothelioma (MM), which is increasingly being reported after exposure to asbestos fibro sheeting in Australia. In this study, we investigate self-reported non-occupational asbestos exposure during home renovation in New South Wales.

Design and setting: Cross-sectional mailed questionnaire examining renovation activity, tasks undertaken during renovation and self-reported exposure to asbestos among respondents and their family members in NSW between January and June 2008.

Participants: 10 000 adults aged 18–99 years, randomly selected from the NSW electoral roll. We received 3612 responses, while 365 questionnaires did not reach addressees, giving an overall response rate of 37.5%.

Main outcome measures: Differences in self-reported asbestos exposure between do-it-yourself (DIY) and non-DIY renovators.

Results: 1597 participants (44.2%) had renovated their home and among these, 858 participants (53.7%) self-reported as DIY renovators. Of these, 527 (61.4%) reported asbestos exposure during home renovations, 337 (39.3%) reported that their partner had been exposed to asbestos during renovations, and 196 (22.8%) reported that their children had been exposed. More than 20% of renovators planned to further renovate their current homes within the next 5 years.

Conclusions: Self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovation is common. This preventable exposure could place adults and children at risk of MM 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.

  • Eun-Kee Park1
  • Deborah H Yates2,3
  • Rebecca A Hyland2
  • Anthony R Johnson4

  • 1 Department of Medical Humanities and Social Medicine, College of Medicine, Kosin University, Busan, Korea.
  • 2 Department of Thoracic Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.
  • 4 Department of Thoracic Medicine, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, NSW.



We thank the study responders and also the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board for its initial support for this study. The later stages of the study including its reporting were unfunded and are entirely the work of the investigators. We would also like to thank Guy Marks for his helpful review of the manuscript.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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