Deadly DIY – Asbestos Exposure and Home Renovations

House during remodel

Whether it’s a cost-saving measure or the satisfaction of completing a time-consuming project on your own, many homeowners are choosing to tackle renovation projects themselves. The do-it-yourself, or DIY, movement has been gaining momentum for decades from house flippers to those who simply want to stay busy at home. This can-do attitude and the willingness to get dirty, however, can also lead to devastating conditions.

Unfortunately, homes built before 1990 likely used asbestos in many building materials and finishes.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring material that was found to be heat and fire-resistant, was commonly used in numerous building materials for decades. From insulation to tiles to roofing shingles, the material was used widely to ensure the safety of building occupants. Unfortunately, asbestos was found to be carcinogenic – often leading to the deadly cancer mesothelioma, and the deaths of those who handled the material.

While studies have shown that undisturbed asbestos does not pose a significant health risk, as soon as these materials are cut, drilled or sanded the worker is in grave danger. These actions cause the asbestos fibers to become airborne – likely to be inhaled. The inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis or other devastating lung diseases.

An Australian study highlights the shocking prevalence of self-reported asbestos exposure during home renovations.

· 60.5 percent of DIY renovators reported being exposed to asbestos during the project.

· 53 percent reported their partner and 40 percent reported their children were also exposed to asbestos during the DIY renovations.

· 37 percent of DIY renovators reported using a power tool to cut asbestos products.

The Australian Mesothelioma Registry’s 2014 Report shows that of the 350 people diagnosed with mesothelioma where there is information about asbestos exposure, 137 (or 39.14 percent) were classified as non-occupational exposure. Of these, 37.2 percent were home renovators and, of those, 33 percent were women.

Before starting any home renovation project, it is wise to consult with a skilled professional. Various companies can be hired to run tests that can detect the presence of asbestos. Do not attempt to remove the material yourself. Instead, trust a certified asbestos professional experienced in asbestos abatement. If you fear your family was exposed to the deadly material, don’t hesitate to discuss your situation with trusted medical and legal professionals.