The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has all the details regarding the cost of removing asbestos, but more than that, it also has detailed survey results that prove cost is the ultimate barrier to the removal of asbestos in NSW.

According to the information held in the government archives, ACT expenditure on asbestos removal reached more than $760 million. This was reached by repurchasing 948 homes and demolishing 916 more. Asbestos has been a major issue ever since “Mr. Fluffy” started to provide cheap and easy asbestos insulation during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

When you remove the payback, all other costs fall on the homeowner, and these costs reach into the thousands of dollars. Aztech, an asbestos removal firm uses its online calculator to provide estimations of the cost of the removal of asbestos, and these reach between $2,500 to $3,500. This range is size dependent and includes lining, roofing and other possible sources of the material that can lead costs to reach $13,500.

ASEA survey

It is evident that cost is the main barrier for most homeowners, especially when considering their incomes. A survey performed by the Asbestos Safety Eradication Agency (ASEA) covered over 2,000 people and included focus groups. The study analyzed the decisions made behind the removal of asbestos, and the results led the survey to unbiased and solid results. The survey focused on four factors:

  1. Size of the material
  2. Location of the material
  3. Cost of the removal process
  4. Government subsidised initiatives to remove the material

The results were straightforward, they showed that:

  • 54% based their decision on cost
  • 33% based their decisions on Government subsidised initiatives to remove the material
  • 14% based their decision on the location of the material

To fully understand the impact of the cost of removal, the study included cost ranges, where jobs that were under $500 to perform were not a barrier, while any job above $2,000 was a barrier, and this led to the 54% lead.

The ASEA report correctly concluded that “Cost was, unquestionably, the primary barrier to removal expressed by homeowners during focus groups.”

“Most saw the cost of removal as being highly expensive, explaining that costs extended beyond simply removal and disposal; costs would also include replacement of materials and potentially additional unforeseeable expenditures.

“Unsurprisingly, homeowners had competing financial priorities, and most accepted that given the apparent lack of urgency surrounding asbestos removal, it was not a main concern.”

Government initiatives

One major solution that would impact the issue of cost is government subsidised initiatives, where focus groups were offered alternatives to personal expenditure. These focus groups showed that personal income is a major factor that contributes to the decision-making process, and that urgency of removal was not as important as sought before the survey.

Income levels under $50,000 automatically placed cost as number one, while middle incomes ranging between $50,000 to $99,000 and high incomes ranging between $100,000 and up were less likely to be affected by cost.

False facts

One startling discovery was that most homeowners thought they were safe when the asbestos was not disturbed, and interesting fact strengthened by builders and other professionals claiming so.

Actual costs

The CEO of  the Asbestos Contractors Removalists Association, Brett Baker, stated that the removal of asbestos is much more acute then realized and this includes the costs generated from damaging surrounding materials, the friability of the material and, perhaps more important than all, whether the material is over 10 square meters in size, this means you need the services of an occupational hygienist to provide a clearance certificate.

Perception

Baker stated that his experience shows that whilst cost is important if a homeowner perceives the dangers of asbestos, they are likely to remove it out of “panic,” and this reduces the impact of cost. This is mostly seen in younger families with small children rather than in the older generation.

Baker also suggested that one of the important factors that now comes into a home buyers decision-making process is whether the house gas asbestos or not.

Baker went on to suggest that a national initiative to record asbestos would be a great starting solution for the industry and this would include the registration of all asbestos locations in a central database, and the removal of that location from the database once the asbestos was cleared by a licensed contractor only. He stressed this last point, since some DIY experienced individuals consider themselves capable of removing asbestos by themselves, something that should be countered and stopped.