The ACT Asbestos Health Study will examine the health effects of living in a house with loose-fill asbestos insulation in the ACT. The study will provide information on domestic exposure to loose-fill asbestos in the ACT and on the health concerns of current and recent residents of Mr Fluffy houses. It will also report on mesothelioma incidence in the ACT, and if data allow it, provide estimates of the risk of mesothelioma and other cancers associated with living in an affected residence.
The study is in response to multiple health forums held in 2014 with concerned residents of Mr Fluffy houses. There are 1,022 known residential properties affected by loose fill ‘Mr Fluffy’ amosite asbestos insulation in the ACT. While the mesothelioma rate is low in the ACT, at around 10 cases per year, concerns have been raised by residents about the potential health impacts associated with living and in some cases, renovating, loose-fill asbestos homes.
Key research questions
- What is the incidence of mesothelioma in the Australian Capital Territory in relation to age, sex, and location at time of diagnosis? Have mesothelioma rates increased over time in the ACT? How do mesothelioma rates in the ACT compare to those for the rest of Australia?
- What are the health-related concerns of current and recent residents of Mr Fluffy houses?
- What are the likely exposure levels of current and recent residents in terms of years lived at a Mr Fluffy house and engaging in high risk activities, such as renovation?
- What are the absolute and relative risks of developing mesothelioma and other cancers in current and former residents of Mr Fluffy houses?
Four components to the study
1. Descriptive study
This study will use data from the ACT Cancer Registry and other sources to provide a descriptive analysis of mesothelioma in the ACT, including a comparison of mesothelioma rates in the ACT to those for the whole of Australia (excluding Western Australia).
2. Focus group discussions
The study team will host two focus group discussions. These will provide an opportunity for current and recent residents to express concerns about the health and social impacts of living in a Mr Fluffy house. These discussions will help to shape the content of a subsequent survey.
Residents (aged 18 and over) who have listed their details with the ACT Asbestos Taskforce will be eligible to participate. Participants will be randomly selected by the ANU from this list. Further information about the discussion groups will be provided with the invitation to participate. The two discussion groups will take place in July 2015. Participation is voluntary and by invitation only.
3. Cross-sectional survey
The cross-sectional survey will be used to assess the health concerns of current/previous residents of Mr Fluffy houses in the ACT. The survey will also gather information on the likely exposure to asbestos insulation, including the occurrence of high risk activities for exposure (for example, whether participants in the survey renovated their house).
The survey will also collect socio-demographic and health information, including measures of anxiety and perceived health effects of exposure. The survey design will be finalised following analysis of the focus groups discussions.
The survey will be conducted online, however facilities will be available for a telephone interview to be conducted for those who do not have access to a computer. An invitation to participate in the survey will be sent to all current and previous residents of a Mr Fluffy house who have listed there details with the ACT Asbestos Taskforce (aged 18 years and over). Further information about the survey will be provided with the invitation to participate.The survey will be launched late April 2016. Participation is voluntary.
4. Data linkage study
Subject to data availability and appropriate approvals, this study will link a number of national datasets, including Medicare data, the Australian Cancer Database and death registration data. These data will be used, to estimate the incidence of mesothelioma (and possibly other cancers) in current and former residents of Mr Fluffy houses and to compare this to the incidence among those who have never lived in a Mr Fluffy house in the ACT. The study will also provide estimates of the projected incidence of mesothelioma in residents who have lived in a Mr Fluffy house.
Strict guidelines will be adhered to ensure privacy and security of data. Note that individual-level identifying information, such as names and dates of birth, are not made available to the researchers who are analysing the data. These details are only required to link the data, which is performed separately by a Commonwealth-accredited data integration authority, in this case, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The results of each component of the ACT Asbestos Health Study will be detailed in a report for ACT Health and the ACT Asbestos Health Study Steering Committee. The study team will also prepare manuscripts for publication in appropriate peer-review journals.
Results will be summarised in a format suitable for lay-people. The ACT Asbestos Response Taskforce will disseminate this summary to people who have listed their details with the Taskforce. Results may also be published in ACT Government reports. And all published reports will be available on this website.
The ACT Asbestos Health Study is overseen by a Steering Committee comprising of:
- Dr Paul Kelly, Chief Health Officer, ACT Health
- Ms Joanne Greenfield, Contract Manager and representative of the Health Improvement Branch, ACT Health.
- Associate Professor Martyn Kirk, Lead Investigator, NCEPH, ANU
- Dr Rosemary Korda, Co-lead Investigator, NCEPH, ANU
- Professor Wayne Smith, NSW Chief Health Officer Representative
- Mr Andrew Kefford, ACT Asbestos Response Taskforce Representative
- How dangerous is it to live in a Mr Fluffy house? - Bruce Armstrong Emeritus Professor, The University of Sydney (PDF 703KB)
- The ACT Asbestos Health Study: Protocols - Martyn Kirk, Rosemary Korda, Cathy Banwell, Phil Batterham, Mark Clements, Bruce Armstrong (PDF 1.32MB)
- Descriptive Study of Mesothelioma in the Australian Capital Territory (PDF 425KB)
- ACT Asbestos Health Study: Component Two Focus Group Discussions (PDF 380KB)
- ACT Asbestos Health Study: Component Three Cross Sectional Survey Report (PDF, 1MB)
If you have any questions about the study do not hesitate to contact us by email or phone.
- Associate Professor Martyn Kirk
- Chief Investigator
- T: (02) 6125 5609
- Dr Rosemary Korda
- Chief Investigator
- T: (02) 6125 5583
Concerns or complaints
If you have concerns regarding the way this research is being conducted please contact the research team or either of the following:
- Human Research Ethics Officer
- The Australian National University
- Office of Research Integrity
- Chancelry 10B, Lower Ground Floor
- T: (02) 6125 3427
- E: Human.Ethics.Officer@anu.edu.au
- Manager - Human Research Ethics
- ACT Health Directorate Research Office
- Building 10 Level 6
- Canberra Hospital
- T: (02) 6174 7968
- E: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have specific questions about the ACT Government’s buyback program or the Asbestos Response Taskforce please visit the contacts page for the Asbestos Response Taskforce.
- Asbestos Response Taskforce
- Australian Mesothelioma Register
- Department of Health, Australian Government - Asbestos - A guide for householders and the general public
- Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Australian Government – Asbestos Information
- Mesothelioma Prognosis Network - Cancer caused by exposure to asbestos
- NSW Government - Asbestos and Health Risks
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – Workplace Safety & Health Topics
- Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) – Asbestos
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Asbestos
- United States National Cancer Institute (NCI) - Asbestos exposure and cancer risk
- Secure Unified Research Environment (SURE)