Asbestos-containing materials were routinely used in the construction of residential buildings up until 1990, and it is estimated that three in four homes across the Latrobe Valley region still contain asbestos today.
This is the second survey conducted by the Taskforce, and it confirms the findings of the first survey with regards to the levels of understanding around the risks of asbestos exposure in Latrobe Valley homes.
“While many people are aware of the dangers of asbestos, some still believe that it only presents a risk if it is disturbed,” said Chair of the Taskforce, Latrobe Health Advocate Jane Anderson.
“As asbestos products are nearing the end of their life cycle, they are naturally degrading and may be releasing deadly asbestos fibres.
“It is also concerning that a large number of homes built before 1990 are still not being checked for asbestos before renovations. We know that DIY home renovation is a very popular activity, and some people may not know that they could be putting themselves, their families and their neighbours at risk.
“Some know that asbestos is commonly found in places such as eaves, wall linings, and in wet areas, but do not know that is also frequently found in vinyl floor underlays and backings, and was also used in flooring adhesive, window sealants and the electrical meter box.
“There are so many instances where asbestos can be found, it is impossible to understand the risks without undertaking asbestos awareness training.
“The survey found that only 13% DIY home renovators have undertaken formal training, and worryingly, two out of five said they planned to undertake renovations on properties built before 1990 in the next 12 months.
“This year, the largest group of DIY home renovators was found to be women aged 50 – 54, and so we know that home renovation activities are very popular with women, too.
“We encourage everyone to contact a professional to check for asbestos before works commence to minimise the risk of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases. There is a lot of information available on the Asbestos in Victoria website, and you can also contact your local council,” said Ms Anderson.
The Latrobe Valley has long been linked to asbestos, with power stations primarily built using asbestos containing materials, as well as workers’ housing for State Electricity Commission employees, and also for other industries such as Victorian Railways. Consequently, many people in the Latrobe Valley have succumbed to asbestos related disease.
As detailed in a recent study published by the taskforce, it was also common for planning schemes in the mid-20th century to mandate the use of asbestos cladding for the rebuilding of properties following bushfires. Due to its widespread popularity as a building product, it is thought that Australian homes built between 1940 and 1990 are very likely to contain asbestos.
Today there continues to be a high level of awareness of asbestos and asbestos-related issues in the Latrobe Valley:
88% agree that asbestos is very common in Australian buildings
83% agree that even a small amount of asbestos can be very dangerous
96% agree that anyone doing renovations needs to be mindful of asbestos.
The two most highly rated concerns regarding asbestos are illegal dumping and the health impacts of asbestos exposure.
In 2019, 37% were concerned about asbestos in power stations, however this has now fallen to 20%. It is noted that a large program of asbestos removal works was undertaken in 2020 at Hazelwood power station and is now almost complete. Another likely factor for this decrease could be the small sample of respondents aged over 65, which is 6% compared to 20% in the 2019 survey.
The over-65 age group is more closely linked to asbestos-related diseases, due to the long latency period between exposure and diagnosis, and therefore the assumption follows that this group is more aware of cases arising from workers in Latrobe Valley’s power stations.
It is acknowledged that the significant decrease in the number of respondents aged over 65 is likely to have a bearing on all areas of the survey, as this age group is more likely to have been involved in home renovations in their lifetime, know more people with asbestos-related disease, and therefore have a greater understanding of the risks of asbestos exposure and higher awareness levels of asbestos-related issues.
This survey has returned a figure of 37% who said they have known someone who has died or whose health has been affected as a result of asbestos exposure. In the 2019 survey, this was 65%. Another factor may be the higher number of respondents who have never either lived or worked in the Latrobe Valley; up to 14% from 6% in 2019.
While almost one third (31%) of all respondents are confident in their own ability to identify asbestos containing materials, only 22% have had any formal training. Over half (56%) have been involved in renovations on properties built before 1990 and 73% state they would do at least part of the work in a kitchen or bathroom renovation themselves.
In responding to the questions about home renovations, 61% completed this section of the survey, with more than half saying they had undertaken home renovations in the past three years, and one in five saying they intended to undertake renovations in the next 12 months.
With regards to home renovation works recently completed, there has been a decrease in the number who undertook a risk of asbestos exposure assessment themselves, instead of engaging professionals. This figure has gone from 36% in 2019 to 15% in 2020, which can only be viewed as positive. However, 9% are still doing asbestos removal themselves. Reasons for doing so include believing they had the skills/knowledge to remove asbestos properly (30%), and to save money (50%).
Overall, the survey reveals similar trends that were identified in the 2019 benchmark survey: the identified need for increased education and awareness, more accessible and low-cost disposal options, and greater levels of regulation and compliance.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey, your time in providing valuable feedback is highly appreciated.
The Latrobe Valley has long been linked to asbestos, with power stations primarily built using asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and consequently, many power station workers succumbing to asbestos related diseases.
Of the survey respondents, nearly two in three (65%) have known someone who has died or whose health has been affected as a result of asbestos exposure.
Correspondingly, there is a high
level of awareness of asbestos and asbestos related issues in the Latrobe
87% agree that asbestos is very common in
89% agree that even a small amount of asbestos
can be very dangerous
98% agree that anyone doing renovations needs to
be mindful of asbestos.
The two most highly rated concerns
regarding asbestos are the health impacts and the illegal dumping of asbestos.
Home renovation is a popular activity, with 95% respondents
indicating they have undertaken home renovations including as DIY home
68% reported that they have undertaken
renovations on properties built prior to 1990
74% report that they would do at least some of
the work themselves in a kitchen or bathroom renovation.
Many (39%) are confident in their
own ability to identify asbestos containing materials but only 29% have had any
In the DIY home renovators
section, two-thirds (67%) of the respondents report that they have undertaken
home renovations in the past three years. Of concern is the 36% that undertook
a risk of asbestos exposure assessment themselves, without engaging
While there is high level of
agreement among DIY renovators that in principle, a licensed removalist ought
to be engaged, almost 1 in 5 (19%) report having done the work themselves.
Reasons for doing so include believing they had the skills/knowledge to remove
asbestos properly (57%), and to save money (37%).
Two out of five (43%) DIY renovators surveyed intend to do
renovations in the next 12 months comprising either internal or external works
Overall, both sections of the survey reveal a demand for
increased education, more accessible and low-cost disposal options, and greater
levels of regulation and compliance.