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NSW Government warns residents not to disturb asbestos, which is lurking in a third of homes


A hidden death trap is lurking in one in three NSW homes sparking a grave new warning.

As part of National Asbestos Awareness Week, the NSW Government is urging residents to be be careful when dealing with the dangerous and potentially deadly substance.


Houses or workplaces built before the 1990s have a high chance of containing harmful asbestos.


NSW Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson warned asbestos was found in one in three homes.

“Many older houses have been built using materials containing asbestos and when it is in good condition it poses little health risk,” he said.

“But when cut or drilled, small asbestos fibres are created which can be inhaled, potentially leading to harmful asbestos related diseases.”

More than 300 people in NSW have been diagnosed with a dust-related disease due to exposure in the workplace during the last financial year.

This is down from 472 the previous year.

2004 : Generic image of asbestos, 2004 photo.
Camera IconAsbestos is found in about one in three homes. Credit: News Corp Australia

“People working with asbestos should conduct asbestos awareness training and wear appropriate PPE at all times,” Mr Anderson said.

The NSW Government received 27,321 notifications about the removal of asbestos last year but inspectors issued more than 500 improvement notices, 162 prohibition notices and 53 penalty notices to the asbestos removal and demolition industries.

Residents living or working in older buildings have been warned not to disturb or damage it.

An Adelaide father-of-three opened up earlier this week about being diagnosed with mesothelioma in August 2017.

Mathew Werfel, 45, was exposed to asbestos fibres between the 1990s and early 2000s when he worked for a contractor, repairing fences at Housing Trust homes, as well as renovating properties.

He unaware they contained the dangerous material.

There is no cure for mesothelioma, which kills within one to three years on average.

Mathew Werfel was diagnosed with the terminal cancer after discovering a lump in his groin in 2017. Supplied
Camera IconMathew Werfel was diagnosed with the terminal cancer after discovering a lump in his groin in 2017. Supplied Credit: Supplied

It is a form of cancer in the mesothelium, which is the protective lining on the inside of body cavities and the outside of internal organs.

“I started to think about my family, my wife and children, and what I would miss out on,” Mr Werfel said.

“The weeks leading up to my CT scans (done every six months) are always a worry.

“You don’t sleep at night thinking of all of the reasons you need to live.”

Mr Werfel was previously awarded a $3.1m compensation payout from former asbestos manufacturer James Hardie.

But a South Australian Supreme Court decision reduced that compensation to $2.2 million in December last year.

– additional reporting by Emily Cosenza

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