The word ‘asbestos’ certainly rings alarm bells with most people, but many of us still have trouble sorting the myths from the facts about this potentially dangerous substance. One problem is that many people don’t believe they have asbestos in their homes when, in fact, you’ll find it in almost every house that’s more than 25 years old. If your house is built before 1985, it is likely to contain asbestos. Mostly it’s in the eaves, or in wet areas like laundries and bathrooms in the form of asbestos cement sheeting (fibro).
According to the experts, when materials that contain asbestos are in good condition and left undisturbed, they do not pose a risk to your health. In fact, if you live in a house that contains asbestos, you won’t necessarily be exposed to more asbestos fibres than people who live in homes that are totally asbestos-free. It’s that word ‘undisturbed’ that makes the difference. When you’re doing home repairs or renovations you need to be aware that this might disturb asbestos fibres.
DIY renovators and trades people are the ones who are most at risk. They are more likely to regularly undertake jobs such as using power tools, sawing or sanding, which can release asbestos fibres into the air where they can be inhaled. In some people, this can lead to asbestos-related diseases.
Three Tips For Managing Asbestos
Find out what year your house was built and assess the chance of your home having asbestos. Visually check to see where it might be and make sure any materials are in good condition, not cracked or broken. If you’re not sure whether a material contains asbestos, it’s safest to treat it as if it does.
If you plan to undertake repairs or renovations that involve disturbing or removing materials containing asbestos –it’s important you take proper precautions. For smaller jobs, like drilling and painting, make sure you download the DIY Fact Sheets from the link below. If it’s a tradesperson or handyman you employ, make sure they are qualified to work with asbestos. Otherwise, for the bigger jobs like bathroom renovations and home extensions, engage an appropriately licensed asbestos removalists. See below for more information.
If you’re not intending to renovate, keep an eye on any materials containing asbestos to make sure they remain in good condition.
For information on safe handling of asbestos products in WA, and asbestos in the home, contact:
The Environmental Health Officer, in your local government
Department of Health (WA) (08) 9388 4999
For a brochure on “Asbestos Cement Products in Your House” contact: Health Info Line 1300 135 030
For information about asbestos in the workplace, approved asbestos removalists or appropriate handling of asbestos including safety wear, contact: Worksafe (Department of Consumer and Employment Protection) 1300 307 877
For information about asbestos-related diseases, contact: Asbestos Disease Society of Australia (08) 9344 4077
For information on disposal sites licensed to accept asbestos waste, contact: Your Local Regional DEC Office or Head Office (08) 6364 6500
Acknowledgements: Department of Environment and Conservation.
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