Asbestos alert as 4000 Aussies are killed every year

Australians are being warned to watch out for asbestos as the fibers kill more Australians than car accidents each year.

The federal government estimates that 4,000 Australians die each year from asbestos-related diseases, nearly four times the annual toll.

There are also warnings ahead of Asbestos Awareness Week, which begins November 21, that thousands of tonnes of the deadly mineral are being dumped illegally, putting the community at risk of exposure.

According to a new survey, an estimated 6,000 tons of asbestos are illegally dumped each year, costing around $11.2 million to clean up.

The Asbestos Safety Eradication Agency found that more than a third of DIYers who encountered asbestos on a renovation or home improvement project had it disposed of illegally or dangerously, with the most common method being disposal in their own or a neighbor’s household waste.

Improper disposal is something that could expose Australians to the deadly fibers, according to Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency executive director Justine Ross.

“Asbestos causes cancer and, if not properly disposed of, poses a risk to the health of workers and the general public. It’s a problem that has serious and far-reaching implications, costing taxpayers millions each year in environmental cleanup and long-term health costs,” Ms Ross said.

With asbestos in one in three homes, those thinking of renovating should have a plan for what to do when they come across it.

“People at greatest risk of exposure are those who work on older buildings and infrastructure where materials containing asbestos are present,” Ms Ross said.

“But asbestos can also be found in unexpected places like your home garden, garage or storage area.”

Those who find asbestos in their home or garden are urged to contact a professional to remove it for them because of the risks to their health.

“It’s easier, safer and often cheaper to hire a professional to do the work. They usually include the cost of legally disposing of the asbestos waste with the cost of removal,” recommends Asbestos Safety.

Australians can also find a licensed asbestos remediation contractor through their state or territory’s WorkSafe or SafeWork website.

Those who find asbestos in their home or yard must dispose of it at a licensed facility, which can be found on the Asbestos Safety website.

Illegal dumping of asbestos is a crime, with hefty fines for those caught doing it, including those dumping it on the side of the road or dumping it in rubbish bins.

Alternatives include contacting a licensed facility, arranging a drop-off time, wrapping in construction plastic, sealing, and drop-off.

“It’s the right thing to do to dispose of it responsibly, no matter how small the amount,” Ms Ross said.

Originally released as an asbestos alert as 4000 Aussies are killed each year

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