For many years we have issued a warning to home owners thinking of renovating at homes or at their beach houses to be aware of the dangers of asbestos.

Our architects – when carrying out pre-purchase property assessments or renovation sketch designs come across many homes with original asbestos cement sheet material in place or previous renovations that have involved the use of the material.

Large numbers of houses throughout Australia were constructed using asbestos-cement products as internal and external wall linings, ceiling linings and roofing. Asbestos was used in flat sheet fibre-cement building products until 1982 and in corrugated fibre-cement roofing material until 1986 because of its cheapness and ease of installation.

It is vital for everyone to understand that once you disturb asbestos fibres there are extreme health risks involved for home owners and their families in relation to the diseases which can be caused by the material. These include asbestosis (a progressive, fibrotic lung disease causing increasing breathlessness), lung cancer and mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer affecting the lining of the chest cavity and the covering of the lungs or, less often, the lining of the abdominal cavity and the covering of abdominal organs).

These diseases can occur many years after the exposure to asbestos fibre has ceased, but the likelihood of a person contracting an asbestos-related disease increases as the intensity and duration of the exposure increases. The real risk of exposure to asbestos fibres occurs with the demolition, drilling or cutting of products containing asbestos.

Anyone undertaking renovations and living in their home at the same time needs to be well informed about the dangers and extremely careful about how asbestos is managed by contractors who may be carrying out the renovation works.

Asbestos sheeting or other materials containing asbestos should always be removed by a specialist contractor who will also arrange for its proper disposal.