The first wave of asbestos-related diseases took place from the 1930s, when asbestos was first manufactured. The second wave began in the 1950s, when the likes of Bernie Banton and his colleagues were exposed to asbestos particles, as were thousands of wharfies, electricians, carpenters and mechanics. The third wave is the home renovators, says Barry Robson, president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia.
Well-known asbestosis campaigner Bernie Banton died in November last year of asbestos-related peritoneal mesothelioma. Banton, who was 61, contracted the disease, along with asbestosis and an asbestos-related pleural condition, when working on asbestos products from 1968 to 1974 for building materials manufacturer James Hardie Industries (JHIL).
Mr.Robson said, "What we're seeing now are thousands and thousands of mums and dads who didn't know the danger of asbestos and were exposed to it when doing their home renovations and DIY projects. [We are also seeing] the kids who were hanging around when dad put up a new carport, a chook pen, or BBQ area."
Mesothelioma has a latency period up to 30 years or more, requires only a short exposure and can kill within months of diagnosis. Asbestos was in the cement sheeting used in the construction of nearly all fibro houses in Australia until it was banned in 1984, when it was replaced by cellulose.
Despite that ban, Mr Robson said the popularity over the past two decades of DIY and home renovation had made exposure a risk common to those renovating nearly all homes, including brick houses, in which it was used in the waterproofing of bathrooms and in linoleum weave.
Mr Robson said those affected in the second wave were expected to die between 2010 and 2015 but the third-wave incidence of mesothelioma is expected to rise dramatically from now until 2030. Whereas the first two waves carried away two generations of men in industry, he said, the foundation expected a much greater number of new cases to be among women. This view is supported by the 2007 report by the Cancer Institute that projected a 20 per cent increase of mesothelioma among women up to 2011.
In anticipation of this rise the association has established a women's support group headed Carol Klintfalt, of Hornsby Heights.
Mrs Klintfalt, 59, was diagnosed to have mesothelioma in September 2006 and given only six to nine months to live, Matt Buchanan reported for the Canberra Times.
She attributed her survival to an intensive approach to the disease - chemotherapy, meditation, vitamins, family support and positivity - an approach she wants to share with others picked up by the third wave. Mrs Klintfalt said she also wished to spread awareness, especially among young people, of the amount of asbestos that might still be in their houses.
"It's amazing the amount of asbestos there is in homes still," she said.
"The young ones, they're buying their first homes and it's in the house, or the garage, or the shed, and they're just home renovators, with their wives and kids, and they're doing the same old thing."
A professor of pathology at Flinders University, Adelaide, Douglas Henderson, said he expected "less then 2, or even 1 per cent" of home renovators exposed would develop mesothelioma, but that would still amount to significant numbers.
"With home renovators they have low exposure, and so they would have a low risk. But when you multiply that low risk across tens of thousands you will see significant numbers of mesothelioma as a result."