The rise in home renovation television shows has moved lawyers related to the infamous James Hardie cases to warn would-be renovators about the risks of undertaking DIY jobs themselves.
Both Channels Seven and Nine have incredibly popular home renovation shows but Annie Hoffman, who has represented mesothelioma patients in court, has moved to warn viewers about unforeseen risks .
“People take it upon themselves to do these types of renovations themselves without the knowledge and understanding that they could be putting their own lives at risk and the lives of their families at risk when doing it,” she said.
“With a lot of DIY-type renovator shows on TV at the moment, many Australians are turning to do those jobs themselves and putting themselves and the lives of their families at risk unknowingly.”
She explained that there was a “huge lack of awareness” about the particular dangers posed by asbestos exposure and more needed to be done to raise awareness and prevent further harm.
“The vast majority of Australians do not have enough knowledge to protect themselves against the risks … they don’t know how to identify these products,” she said.
“It is impossible to quantify the number of people who will contract mesothelioma as a result of doing home renovations.”
Ms Hoffman is urging James Hardie to foot the bill for a national media campaign to warn Australians about the risks of their products.
“They had a slogan that they used … ‘renovate, don’t relocate’,” she said.
“So, they knew that people would be carrying out the type of work [that could expose people to asbestos].
“And in knowing that, they must have known that people would come across the existing asbestos materials, including existing James Hardie asbestos materials when doing those renovations.”
In a statement to ABC recently, a spokesperson for Channel Seven explained that significant precautions were made on all worksites during filming and production of House Rules.
“House Rules worksites are governed by best practice health and safety rules and regulations,” the spokesperson said
“In particular with asbestos, we have very clear and precise guidelines.
“Until the experts give the all clear and declare a building safe, the whole site is off limits.”
A spokesperson from Channel 9 said similar regulations were in place during production of The Block and multiple warnings were aired.
“We take the issue of asbestos safety seriously,” a spokesperson said.
“Appropriate checks and management of the building site around asbestos and the many other occupational health and safety regulations are stringently adhered and have been an integral part of the show over the past 15 series.”
Peter Tighe, the chair of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, said there was a need to get information to the public, and that it was “really critical” people understood the potential risks.
“The thing that most Australians don’t realise is there are over 3,000 products that contained asbestos that were used in the building industry in Australia,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“One in three houses in Australia have asbestos-containing material in them.
“The issue about getting information out to the public is really critical, especially for DIY home renovators.”