Monday, September 12, 2011

Fan of DIY? Study links home renos and mesothelioma in women

DIY projects may be risky for women
(and men) if asbestos is involved.
Whether it’s moving into a new place or giving your home a much-needed update, a growing number of homeowners are taking on their own home renovations – but at what cost?

In an Australian study, researchers have found that the trend may be accompanied by a growing number of deadly asbestos-related cancers in women.

Traditionally, and still today, more men than women are being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity), an article in the Sydney Morning Herald says, but the rise in cases has been sharper for women, who may be exposed to asbestos fibers when the asbestos-containing materials in their home are being disturbed during renovations.

The facts speak for themselves: The number of home renovation cases soared from five per cent of all MM cases in women during the 1990s to more than 35 per cent between 2005 and 2008.

For the study, researchers from the University of Western Australia reviewed all cases of MM diagnosed in the state between 1960 and 2008.

Asbestos still widespread in homes

Lead researcher Nola Olsen said the number of home renovation cases was likely to continue rising given the amount of older properties still containing asbestos products coupled with the growing popularity of DIY renovations.

In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.

"Asbestos-containing products such as asbestos cement sheets are still found in many homes, particularly older homes and fences," Olsen was quoted in the article.

"Our study shows that exposures in the home, at a time when people were less aware of the health issues and these asbestos products were still legally available, have unfortunately had dire consequences for some."

While the chances of developing mesothelioma are relatively low, the problem is still there - and not only in Australia. Many homes in the rest of the world still feature asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos fibers can be hazardous when they become airborne and are inhaled, and exposure has also been linked to lung cancer and asbestosis.

Before taking on DIY projects, consider these points:
  • Find out if the house was built with asbestos-containing materials
  • If so, consider hiring a professional remediation company. If the materials are in good condition, experts suggest leaving them alone so as not to disturb any fibers
  • Make sure to wear protective gear
  • Do not dust, sweep, or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These steps will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors
  • Use an indoor air purifier with HEPA and activated carbon (see AllerAir’s 6000 Series)
  • Indoor air monitoring may be necessary to reduce risks
  • Always seek information and weigh risks before beginning a project

Contact AllerAir for more information and IAQ solutions.

Allerair Industries is a manufacturer of high-quality air purifiers for homes and offices. The company focuses on developing air filtration systems that deal with all kinds of air pollutants, ranging from dust particles to airborne chemicals and pathogens.

The AllerAir product line includes solutions for allergies and asthma, mold, MCS, tobacco smoke and odor control, among many others.

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