27 November 2017

Be aware of asbestos dangers during maintenance and renovations

Western Australians are being urged to undertake the appropriate precautions when renovating or maintaining properties built before 1990.

Department of Health Managing Scientist Environmental Health Hazards, Dr Michael Lindsay, said National Asbestos Awareness Week, which runs from 27 November to 1 December 2017, was a timely reminder for people to consider the risks posed by asbestos-containing products.

“Most people know that asbestos may be contained in cement sheeting in roofs, fences or older style houses,” Dr Lindsay said.

“However, asbestos can also be found in many common household items such as paper backing material on sheet linoleum, backing panels in meter boxes and vinyl floor tiles.

“Asbestos containing products can be difficult to identify just by looking at them. So, if in any doubt, treat suspect material like it is asbestos, just to be on the safe side.”

Dr Lindsay said that owners of homes built before 1990 should not be concerned or alarmed, but they should be aware.

“Asbestos containing products pose little risk to health when in good condition and undisturbed,” Dr Lindsay said.

“Homeowners need to take precautions when they are renovating or doing maintenance work to prevent dangerous asbestos fibres being released into the air and inhaled.”

Dr Lindsay said correct disposal of asbestos containing products was also important, with over a quarter of all asbestos-related complaints to local government being about illegal dumping of asbestos containing products.

Homeowners should contact their local government for information about licensed waste facilities which provide disposal options for asbestos containing products.

“Being ‘asbestos aware’ is more than just being aware of asbestos products in your own backyard,” Dr Lindsay said.

“It is also about being aware of it in the community and reporting illegal dumping of asbestos containing products to your local government, for your safety and that of others.”

Tips to be “asbestos aware” include:

  • If doing maintenance, or renovating a house built before 1990, be aware it could have asbestos containing products and treat them with caution.
  • If buying a house, ask that an asbestos survey be conducted as part of the building inspection report.
  • Do not use power tools to drill, cut, sand or remove materials containing asbestos, as this will release asbestos fibres.
  • Never use a high pressure cleaner to clean asbestos cement roofing, cladding or fencing.
  • If removing small amounts of asbestos containing products yourself, learn how to safely remove and dispose of them first.
  • If in doubt, hire a licensed asbestos removalist and check that the work area is free from visible asbestos at the end of the job.

For more information on asbestos in the home visit: http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Asbestos-cement-products-in-your-home

Educational material is available from the “kNOw asbestos in your home” information and online course on the Cancer Council WA website: www.cancerwa.asn.au/prevention/asbestos


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