Concerned NSW residents demand asbestos checks

Date: Jan 14, 2015

Homeowners across NSW are flocking to a new asbestos website and hotline to book house checks as contamination fears reach new heights.

People can arrange an inspection of their property to see whether or not it has been fitted with loose-fill asbestos insulation. The material is a significant health hazard, causing deadly lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Figures published by the ABC reveal that the number of requests for such visits rose 50 per cent over the last month to 2,600. Inspections are not mandatory and there are currently 11 organisations licensed to perform asbestos property checks across 26 of the state's council areas.

The fear over asbestos is due to revelations that the dangerous substance was fitted inside a number of houses in NSW and the ACT during the 1960s and 1970s. A Canberra-based company, Mr Fluffy, installed loose-fit asbestos in roof spaces across the two regions to act as insulation.

A recent NSW parliamentary inquiry recommended that affected houses in the state should be purchased by the government and then demolished. So far, the majority of properties found to contain asbestos have been in Queanbeyan, which is adjacent to the ACT.

Current tally 'just the beginning'

A total of 57 houses have currently been discovered with asbestos inside, but one campaigner believes there will be plenty more unveiled when home checks increase.

Brianna Heseltine from the Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group argued that Queanbeyan should have mandatory investigations to prevent people's health from being put needlessly at risk.

"We think [Queanbeyan] will be the epicentre of the Mr Fluffy disaster trail in NSW, and it's simply not right for people to live in a home that could be a ticking time bomb," she explained to the ABC's AM program.

Homeowner Petra Wiesner, whose house was fitted with loose-fill asbestos, said there are major health and financial issues the state government must consider. She has been unable to live in her property since it was found to contain the material. 

According to Ms Wiesner, the asbestos problem has become a key political concern in Queanbeyan, which is in the marginal NSW electorate of Monaro.

"The politicians who talk and say the right things, they're certainly going to be much more respected than those that don't, but at the end of the day it's those that put it into action who are going to win the hearts and the minds of people who are affected by this issue," she stated.

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