Experts are warning that home renovators and do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts could be the “third wave” of mesothelioma victims. An aggressive form of cancer, mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos exposure, and disease rates are expected to increase again.

Asbestos was frequently used in home construction products before most of the population knew about the dangers. Home renovators are now unknowingly coming into contact with asbestos in their homes during DIY projects.

Home Renovators Spiking Rates of “Third Wave” Mesothelioma Victims

Over the past several decades, mesothelioma rates have come in waves. Each wave is a generation of increased mesothelioma victims, with the disease occurring at predictable intervals.

Because mesothelioma develops decades after asbestos exposure, experts can link the increase in asbestos exposure today with a strong likelihood of future mesothelioma cases.

The first wave of mesothelioma affected people who were involved in mining and extraction industries, working directly with asbestos or other raw materials that were contaminated with asbestos. Most of these people were unaware of the dangers of asbestos exposure, and it was their cases that first put asbestos and mesothelioma on scientists’ radar.

The second wave of mesothelioma impacted those who installed or repaired asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

Many tradesmen and women were exposed to asbestos through occupations relied on asbestos, like: 

  • Aircraft and auto mechanics
  • Construction work
  • Factory work
  • Shipyard workers

Now that DIY home renovation has become a popular trend, home renovators are unknowingly interacting with asbestos. This increases their risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases.

Home renovation shows often gloss over asbestos-testing and the precautions that responsible contractors take because it isn’t exciting television. As a result, some homeowners start projects without realizing the importance of conducting asbestos tests.

Australian Handyman Sues Building Materials Company

A recent case highlights the risk of renovators coming into contact with asbestos.

An Australian man named Mathew Werfel recently received a $3 million payout from his lawsuit against James Hardie, the company that manufactures Hardie plank siding and other building materials frequently found in homes across the globe.

Werfel claimed he was exposed to ACMs while performing renovation work on two properties in the 1990s and 2000s and developed testicular mesothelioma after this exposure.

Like many homeowners today, Werfel was completely unaware that these homes contained asbestos. Therefore, he didn’t take precautionary methods to protect himself.

“It was an older home and it required sanding, painting and so it created a lot of dust. It was all over me, my hair, my clothes,” said Werfel in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Had I have known it was asbestos in the eaves, I wouldn’t have touched it at all.”

Werfel’s lawyer, Annie Hoffman, argued that James Hardie is aware of the asbestos in its products but doesn’t take adequate action to protect homeowners. Hoffman wants the company to take responsibility for supplying asbestos throughout Australia and warn people that its products can have deadly consequences.

“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,” said Hoffman.

Home Reno Enthusiasts Warned of Asbestos Dangers

Asbestos is still very present in many homes throughout the world, and almost every house built in North America between the 1960s and 1990s contains ACMs. People who dream of buying “fixer-uppers” or flipping properties need to take extreme caution to protect themselves and neighbors.

Asbestos is harmless when left alone, but it becomes dangerous when disturbed, as microscopic airborne fibers get released into the air. Asbestos is friable, meaning it can easily crumble. Moving, cutting, or otherwise disturbing with ACMs can easily cause the release of fibers.

Homeowners should never take on demolition work by themselves and must take precautions when participating in repair and renovation work.

Asbestos is often present in parts of the home like: 

  • Cement
  • Drywall
  • Electrical wiring
  • Insulation
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing
  • Tiles
  • Tape

Professionals must test any material that may contain asbestos before renovation work begins, and homeowners should always plan for additional costs and time delays.

Help for Third-Wave Mesothelioma Victims

Mesothelioma is a serious disease with deadly consequences. Most homeowners don’t truly understand the risks of asbestos exposure until they are diagnosed and experience the disease firsthand.

If you or a loved one have developed mesothelioma from handiwork and home renovations, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact our Justice Support Team to have your case reviewed.

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Laura WrightWritten by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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  1. Donnellan, A. (2019.) DIY handyman wins landmark $3 million asbestos compensation claim against James Hardie. ABC News.

  2. Emmett, E. (2017.) Communities at High Risk in the Third Wave of Mesothelioma. Asbestos and Mesothelioma, p 103-130.

  3. Kirby, T. (2013.) Fears of a new wave of mesothelioma in home renovators? The Lancet, p 18.

  4. Slessor, C. et al. (2019.) DIY renovators warned they’re ‘putting their families’ lives at risk’ because of hidden asbestos in suburban homes. ABC News.

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