Australia’s Ongoing Challenge of Legacy Asbestos in the Built Environment: A Review of Contemporary Asbestos Exposure Risks

Georgia Frangioudakis Khatib, Julia Collins, Pierina Otness, James Goode, Stacey Tomley, Peter Franklin, Justine Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Asbestos remains ubiquitous in the Australian built environment. Of the 13 million tonnes of asbestos products installed in earlier decades, an estimated 50% remain in situ today. Because of the extensive past use of asbestos, and the increasing age of these products, the potential for exposure to asbestos fibres in both indoor and outdoor environments remains high, even while the actual asbestos exposure levels are mostly very low. Sources of these exposures include disturbance of in situ asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), for example during renovations or following disaster events such as fires, cyclones and floods. Our understanding of the risk of asbestos-related disease arising from long-term low-level or background exposure, however, is poor. We provide the most up-to-date review of asbestos exposure risks currently affecting different groups of the Australian population and the settings in which this can manifest. From this, a need for low-level asbestos monitoring has emerged, and further research is required to address whether current exposure monitoring approaches are adequate. In addition, we make the case for proactive asbestos removal to reduce the risk of ongoing asbestos contamination and exposure due to deteriorating, disturbed or damaged ACMs, while improving long-term building sustainability, as well as the sustainability of limited resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12071
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume15
Issue number15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

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