How to Avoid Renovation Health Hazards

How to Avoid Renovation Health Hazards

Applying a little foresight and forward planning can help to prevent renovation health hazards. Through the past decade, I have found that many of my clients have experienced health issues due to factors in their homes, I call these hidden hazards.

In order to equip you with information and strategies while renovating your home, I am going to share with you 5 of the common hazards… and give you strategies on how you can tackle them safely and effectively.


I’d say mould is a “complex beast.” Here are some key points in a nutshell:

    • Ultimately, mould is a moisture issue. If there’s mould, there has been moisture. Conversely, if something is wet for long enough (48 hours) you can have mould.
    • There are over 100,000 different types of mould, it comes in many colours and has many different moisture requirements.
    • It’s a myth that mould only grows in cold, dark places. Mould spores are present everywhere and can become active when there is enough moisture present.
    • Mould can be actively growing, yet be invisible and/or have no odour.
    • It’s also a myth that only mould that is black can cause problems to health.
    • Not everyone reacts the same way to mould. People can be allergic to it, or become sensitised over time. Others may have an immune system that can deal with it without them even realising it!
    • Mould can grow in all sorts of places – even in areas that you can’t see.

The biggest factor when it comes to renovation health risks is that any time you disturb mould, it releases spores. This means any changes to moisture levels, light, temperature, air movement, as well as physically disturbing it, can result in mould releasing spores.

Keep your eyes peeled for any signs of water, mould or damage: wood with “wood rot” (a.k.a. “water damage”), a “high tide mark” in the subfloor and on the stumps, brown stains (typically on ceilings and walls), paintwork that is peeling, cracked or bubbling, and swollen wood (door jambs, cabinetry, kickboards). 

If you spot any of these, get in touch so I can advise on how to best manage the situation.


Asbestos is a material that most of us have heard of. I am sure you also know of the health risks, like mesothelioma that can result from asbestos exposure.

However, it is important to know that asbestos does not pose any health risk if it isn’t damaged or disturbed. Which means, you can live in a 1950s home and have no asbestos-related issues if you don’t make holes in the walls or renovate. This is great news – except if you do want to renovate.

Here are some facts about asbestos.

    • It’s strong, heat resistant and durable
    • It was used in a vast range of materials for many decades,
    • The peak usage of asbestos was 1950s-1970s,
    • Asbestos was banned in 2003, and
    • It is impossible to know if a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it.

Apart from “Hardie Boards”, cement-lined asbestos pipes and roof tiles, asbestos was used in electrical cable casing (this is the braided one), window sashes on hung windows, slagging, old laundry tubs, carpet underlays, tiles, bakelite materials and so many other materials.

If your home was built before 2003 and you are planning on a renovation, engage a licensed asbestos inspector to conduct a “demolition survey.”


Lead has also been widely used in a number of products, and was only phased out from use in paint as recently as 2010. Whilst leaded paint, like asbestos, when it isn’t disturbed poses little risk – if it is sanded or peeling, it can be particularly hazardous to health.

There are often no symptoms of lead poisoning for some years – and common long term effects of lead poisoning include loss of libido, reduced sperm count, lowered IQ, Alzheimer’s Disease, hearing loss, joint pain, stroke, and has been linked to many “diseases of ageing.”

Lead can be present in our homes in paint, solder, flashing (which can get into tank water), lead dust (from busy roads and industry) which can get into the soil or roof space, and even lead lighting.

What is important to know with lead is that the “spot tests” that you can get at hardware stores are extremely unreliable. It is for this reason that they are not something that I recommend. Instead, you can get samples analysed by an accredited laboratory. 

If you suspect lead might be present then take extra care:

    • wear a respirator,
    • gloves and coveralls,
    • avoid dry sanding,
    • avoid removing paint with heat guns,
    • manage the dust to prevent secondary contamination, and of course,
    • keep pets, pregnant women, young children and the elderly away from areas being renovated.

For more information on lead, a top resource is LeadSafeWorld.

renovation health risks


Dust is certainly something you can certainly expect in any renovation. 

But is dust safe?

I always err on the side of caution, and I would say, “no.” Better safe than sorry, right?

Dust can contain allergens such as house dust mites and pollen, but also lead and other heavy metals, asbestos, pesticides and herbicides (such as glyphosate), rodents, faeces, dander, frass and more.

Two places where dust pose the biggest risks are carpets and the roof space.

Any time you are doing anything involving the ceiling or roof space be sure to have the dust removed prior. This could be installing insulation to cutting out a piece to installing downlights, and so on.

You can find specialists in dust removal at Australian Dust Removal Association.

For carpets, I recommend that you spray them down with water, cut them into strips, roll each strip, wrap in a tarp and take it out to the skip. This will prevent dust becoming airborne as well as reduce the risk of spreading it through other parts of your home.

And of course, personal protective equipment is always recommended!

Plan Ahead and Avoid Renovation Health Hazards

Whilst we know how easy it is to get swept up in the vision and planning… However, you are now armed with important information to protect yourself and your family from the most common renovation health hazards. 

If you’d like advice on your particular situation, please book a call with me.

Asbestos-Related Products Are Often On My Radar

Because so many of our homes contain asbestos-related products – everything from walls, soffits, pipes, cladding, roof tiles, carpet backings, and more.

Asbestos was only banned in 2003.

It was widely used in the 1950s through to the 1970s.

When it is intact – there is no risk. But when it is damaged, there is an enormous risk to health – and often the associated diseases take decades to manifest.

If you are in any doubt, treat it as though it IS asbestos and be careful. A licensed asbestos inspector can attend your property to determine if it is or not.

Please spare a moment to think of all those who are or have suffered as a result of this building material. Sending love and support to them and their families. #protectourbuildingindustry

Asbestos Awareness – It Could Save Lives

Shedding Light on the Dangers of Asbestos

During the first week of April, many people across the globe come together to help raise awareness on a mineral that has been scientifically proven to cause cancer and other serious illnesses. Global Asbestos Awareness Week is a time where topics such as prevention, the health risks of exposure and banning asbestos get the full attention they deserve.

To date there are at least 58 countries that banned the use of asbestos, Australia being one of them. In observance of this week, I’m going to do my part by sharing information with you on the hidden dangers of this carcinogen.

Segue – A Trip Down Memory Lane

I really wanted to do this because of something that I did – which never should have happened. In my line of work, I hear all sorts of regrets that people have… and if I knew what I know now, I would never have made this mistake. Let me tell you the story.

Once, about 20 odd years ago, I lived in a fabulous house which was built in 1968. In terms of building biology, it was a house of horrors, but I didn’t know anything about that then.

I decided to remove the layers of funky (yes, funky) 1970s wallpaper. Once the layers were off, I discovered that the plasterboard had been installed to provide a rough surface for the wallpaper to stick to. I didn’t want that because I was painting over it. Being an indestructible 20-something, I sanded and sanded and sanded it. Eventually, I gave up and painted anyway. When I was doing my building biology training, it hit me. That was very likely to be asbestos! I don’t know if it was. I don’t yet know if there are any long-term ramifications – but it scares me to realise that I may end up with mesothelioma or asbestosis – or similar; simply as a result of being ignorant.

What is Asbestos?

Known for its heat resistance and durability, asbestos is a microscopic, fibrous mineral found naturally in the environment.

It is these characteristics that made it such a star player in the production of building materials.

Products such as roofing shingles, wallboard, flooring tiles, and insulation were made with asbestos and it was heavily used before the 1970’s.

Australia was one of the highest users of asbestos until there was strong scientific evidence that linked the mineral to serious health concerns.

It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s that our government began implementing a ban on asbestos. The ban covers both imports and exports of asbestos, as well as any use of chrysotile asbestos used in building products.

A Concerning Fact

You may still find asbestos in older homes, so be sure to do some research before getting into any DIY-renovation projects. If you need help on where asbestos could be in your home, take a look here for some advice on what you should do if it is present.

Here are some common places you may find them in your home: 


Health Effects

Any amount of exposure could cause serious health risks or environmental sensitivities.

You may wonder: how can I be exposed and what are the health risks of exposure? 

If a material that contains asbestos is damaged, it can release tiny particles that contain the asbestos fibre which can easily be inhaled. Since it is such a strong material, our bodies can’t break it down, so the fibres become trapped inside the body to eventually develop tumours.

As mentioned above, asbestos is linked to many serious health effects. One of the strongest correlations is with mesothelioma, an aggressive rare cancer that the only known cause is from exposure to asbestos. The signs and symptoms of this cancer often get confused with lung cancer and asbestosis. Although these other illnesses are caused by asbestos, they are completely different in physical characteristics.

Therefore, it is important when going through the diagnosing stage to specify your family history, your health concerns, and any chance of being exposed to asbestos (like sanding it – note to self).

What can you do to help raise awareness – even your own?

  1. Remember, asbestos-related illnesses are 100% preventable.
  2. Stay informed and let others know about this material. To continue to spread awareness, join in on the conversation online or in your community.
  3. Have your home assessed by a licensed asbestos inspector (I have listed some here).

Here are some simple ways you can get further involved:

  • Social media is an important step in raising awareness. Educating your friends and family around the globe by creating a simple tweet or status update could prevent future exposure. #2017GAAW was created in honour of this year’s Global Asbestos Awareness Week led by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation. You can learn what’s being talked about and what other organisations/experts are saying.
  • Donate to any organisations of the illnesses mentioned above that would use the funds for research and future treatment options.

If you are worried about asbestos in your place, choose an asbestos assessor who has completed the BOHS training. This is the training I did and I can vouch for the high level of this training.
Also, get a “demolition survey” if you are planning any renovations.
You will also find some great information here.

If you would like to discuss your situation with me, get in touch.

#asbestos #mesothelioma #hiddenhazards #2017GAAW