Understanding the health risks


All urban residents are exposed to low levels of asbestos in the environment, including from natural sources, industrial material and buildings.

ACT Health advice is that the chance of developing an asbestos-related disease increases with the cumulative exposure to asbestos fibres a person breathes in during their lifetime.

ACT Health provide information on health risks associated with exposure to asbestos and how to register for the National Asbestos Exposure Register. Find out more on the Health Directorate website.

Very low riskLow riskLow to medium risk
  • General public - asbestos is a naturally occurring substance and the background air has a low level of asbestos fibres
  • Visitors, neighbours, care and service providers to Mr Fluffy homes - short periods of exposure
  • Former residents - depending on condition of the house, length of residence, safe renovation and home maintenance activity
  • Tradespeople - short periods of exposure while working in an affected house carries a low risk and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) reduces the risk even further. However cumulative exposure over time and/or activity undertaken can see risk increased to medium
Risk to visitors, neighbours, care and service providers

Short periods of exposure to low levels of asbestos like what might occur in visiting a house with Mr Fluffy insulation, carries an extremely low risk of developing asbestos-related illness.

The risk to care workers and service providers visiting affected homes is no different to the risk to private visitors; short periods of exposure to low-levels of asbestos carries an extremely low risk of developing asbestos-related illness.

Those who continue to visit Mr Fluffy houses should refer to their employer’s occupational health and safety guidelines, which may require risk minimisation obligations such as the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Risk to former residents

Provided that the Mr Fluffy property was maintained in good condition, the residual loose fill asbestos was left undisturbed and residents did not have direct contact with the fibres through inhalation or ingestion, the risks of residing in a Mr Fluffy home are low.

Even where residents have undertaken renovations that may have breached the ceiling or wall cavities or the underfloor spaces, the risk remains low. Short periods of exposure to loose fill asbestos, as might occur during renovations, carries a low risk of developing asbestos-related illness. The risk is even lower if Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was used.

You may be concerned about friends, family, service providers and tradespeople who visited or worked on or in your affected property. Remember that just because a person has been exposed to loose fill asbestos does not mean they will develop any asbestos related medical conditions.

Risk to tradespeople

Most people who develop an asbestos-related medical condition have been exposed to high concentrations of fibres, or exposed over many years, in occupational settings like mining, construction and machinery shops.

Short periods of exposure to loose fill asbestos, as might occur when working on a house with Mr Fluffy insulation, carries a low risk of developing asbestos-related illness. If you used Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as prescribed by occupational health and safety guidelines, then the risk is even lower.

Health research

ACT Asbestos Health Study

The Australian National University released a series of documents and reports outlining the results of the ACT Asbestos Health Study which examined the health effects of living in a house with loose fill asbestos insulation in the ACT.

General Research

Asbestos is a risk to health only when it is inhaled (breathed in) as fine dust. The risk to health increases with the number of fibres inhaled and with frequency of exposure. When asbestos dust is inhaled, larger fibres tend to be cleared by protective mechanisms in the lungs and upper respiratory tract. The finer fibres are more difficult to remove, and may become trapped in the lungs, or move further into the body.

There are a number of diseases that can be related to inhaled asbestos fibres:

Smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer following exposure to asbestos.

To date, most people who have developed asbestos-related diseases have been exposed to a relatively large number of fibres through their work (e.g. miners, asbestos manufacturers, tradespeople).

Diseases related to the deposit and penetration of asbestos fibres can take a long time to develop after initial exposure to asbestos (i.e. typically 20 to 30 years after the first exposure, depending on the disease). Not everyone exposed to asbestos will get an asbestos-related disease.

The table below indicates the low prevalence of mesothelioma for ACT residents when compared with more common forms of cancer.

Age-standardised incidence rates for mesothelioma and common cancers that affect both males and females, ACT, 2014

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017 Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: Canberra: AIHW
CancerIncidence per 100,000 population
Mesothelioma 2.8
Colorectal cancer 56.4
Melanoma of the skin 40.1
Lung 31.4

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