This week is National Asbestos Awareness Week, a time to shine a light on the dangers of asbestos fibres.

This year’s theme is “Asbestos lurks in more places than you’d think”, according to the Asbestos Disease Support Society.

Australia was one of the highest worldwide users of asbestos through history, and despite its use being banned since 2003, large amounts of asbestos are still present in many Australian homes, workplaces and the environment.

It is estimated that 4,000 Australians die from asbestos-related diseases every year.

At the height of its use, asbestos was in over 3,000 products and many of these products are still in homes and workplaces.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause a range of deadly diseases including mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer. There is no cure and the prognosis is extremely poor.

Asbestos fibres are around 200 times thinner than a human hair, can be invisible and be inhaled easily. They can become trapped deep in the lungs and cause damage over a long time. It can take many years for an asbestos related disease to develop after a person is exposed to asbestos – the latency period, which is commonly 20 to 30 years after exposure.

About one third of homes built between 1945 and the late 1980s are likely contain some form of asbestos building product.

If disturbed, without adequate precautions, the asbestos fibres are released into the atmosphere and if inhaled, can lead to asbestos related disease.

Asbestos Awareness Week is aimed at educating Australian homeowners and DIY renovators about the likely presence of asbestos in older homes – and in places they might not think about.

DIY renovators are encouraged to always seek help and advice in identifying asbestos, and getting it safely removed and disposed of.

More information is accessible here.