Asbestosis a risk for NSW homeowners

Date: Oct 24, 2013

Asbestosis could be a risk for some New South Wales homeowners, with the NSW Police Force warning local residents that a number of buildings are potentially hazardous.

The police said any structures that have been destroyed or damaged by recent bush fires in the region could have been originally constructed with materials containing asbestos.

Homes and offices built before 1987 pose the biggest risk and the police outlined several precautionary measures for people hoping to reduce the chance of inhaling asbestos fibres.

Ways to avoid asbestosis dangers

Individuals were advised to seek guidance from local emergency services as to whether their house is safe to re-enter, while properties that are known to have asbestos debris should be evaluated by an asbestos assessor or occupational hygienist.

Other recommendations included:

·      Preventing unnecessary entry to buildings, particularly for children
·      Wearing a type P2 dust mask and overalls in all areas where asbestos debris may be disturbed
·      Keeping asbestos debris wet until the material can be safely removed to avoid the release of dangerous fibres

However, despite the warnings, the NSW Police Force admitted that a fire-damaged asbestos building rarely generates enough fibres to be considered high risk, unless asbestos debris is disturbed.

“It is generally low risk to walk around or nearby asbestos-damaged buildings,” the institution said in a statement.

EPA guidelines

The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) advises that any buildings with asbestos materials should be immediately fenced off after a fire.

“The site will need to be continually damped down so as not to cause runoff, or sprayed with PVA to ensure that the asbestos cannot become airborne,” the organisation explained.

“This needs to continue until the site is cleaned up.”

Warning signs should also be erected to ensure no risks are posed to neighbours and passersby, the EPA continued.

Asbestos removal is the responsibility of whoever caused the fire or the inhabitant of the building that contains the material.

“Depending on the extent of fire damage, the asbestos present can be classified as either friable or bonded,” the EPA added.

“Asbestos sheets that are severely damaged or reduced to ash are likely to be friable, whereas asbestos that is intact or has suffered smoke damage only is likely to be classified as bonded.”

The type of classification will affect which contractors to appoint to the job of removal, with friable asbestos requiring an A1 license and bonded asbestos needing an A2 license – both are issued by WorkCover NSW.

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