Asbestos removal increasing amid NSW renovation boom
Reports of asbestos in residential and commercial construction sites have almost doubled in the past five years, data from SafeWork NSW shows.
This year alone, the regulator has received 25,069 reports of licensed asbestos and demolition work, up from 12,942 in 2012.
SafeWork's figures come as an Australian online marketplace for tradespeople, Hipages, reports a 32 per cent increase in the number of job requests for licensed asbestos removal in NSW in the past year, a rise it links to the state's surge in home renovations.
Asbestos removal jobs in western Sydney have increased 64 per cent since 2015, while Sydney's eastern suburbs have experienced a 50 per cent jump, year-on-year, according to Hipages.
Jobs in Sydney's south and north-west have increased 23 to 25 per cent, while in Albury-Wodonga asbestos removal jobs have been increasing 250 per cent, year on year.
In contrast, removals have declined 30 per cent in Canterbury and Bankstown in the past year, while remaining stable in Sydney's inner west.
Master Builders Association NSW executive director Brian Seidler said it was clear that "we will discover more asbestos".
"I think with the continued love of renovation and the fact that the greater majority of homes now are over 30 years and will therefore need renovation or refurbishment, we will discover more asbestos, that is clear," he said.
"I'm not surprised by the 32 per cent [increase], but I am heartened by the fact people are engaging licensed asbestos removalists."
Data released by the Department of Planning this week revealed that more than 31,000 new homes were built in Sydney in the 12 months to October, the highest annual number of new homes in more than four decades.
It found that most construction was concentrated in Sydney's middle and western suburbs, with more than 9200 homes built around Parramatta and Blacktown, and a further 6753 homes built in the city's south-west and Penrith.
Mr Seidler said that while there was a boom in the new home construction market, there was also a huge market in the "renovation, addition and alteration area" for homes that may have been built with asbestos products.
Cindy Rahal, operations manager for licensed asbestos removalist and demolisher Access Quality Services, said the overall increase of jobs this year was most commonly for homes conducting renovations.
"We can't keep up. Especially this half of the year, there has been an increase for sure," she said.
"We are finding it is a lot of young couples moving into their first home in areas where there are asbestos homes ... there is certainly an awareness of asbestos that people didn't have before."
Ms Rahal pointed to Lane Cove, Hornsby, Wyong and Pittwater as some of the busiest council areas for asbestos removal.
In April, a report commissioned by the federal government's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency projected there would be about 19,400 new cases of mesothelioma in Australia before the end of the century.
Mesothelioma is an an incurable cancer of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.
The agency suggests that 58 per cent of future diagnoses will be attributed to industrial exposures, with the remaining 42 per cent coming from third-wave exposures such as home renovation or environmental exposure.
"The rising incidence of third-wave exposure means it's critically important that we all put in place measures now to reduce the risks of asbestos exposure ... [including] proper identification, removal and disposal of asbestos homes and buildings across the country before it leads to asbestos exposure," ASEA chief executive Peter Tighe said.
The story Asbestos removal increasing amid NSW renovation boom first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.