OWNERS of 1049 Canberra homes that were exposed to asbestos in the 1970s have been urged by the ACT Government to have their homes professionally inspected for remnants of the potentially lethal insulation.The ACT Government has today written to the owners of the homes, which were included in the loose fill asbestos abatement program (1988-1993), to remind them of the ongoing precautions that need to be taken.
Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, Simon Corbell, said the letters are part of the Government’s continuous effort to reinforce the dangers of asbestos in all its forms.
Most homes in Australia built before 1990 will have building material containing asbestos, but Mr Corbell urged extra caution with homes that previously had loose fill asbestos insulation installed, even if they had already been part of the abatement program.
“Between 1968 -1978 a company operating in the ACT installed loose fill asbestos in just over 1,000 homes. While a program to remove this asbestos was undertaken by the ACT and Commonwealth Governments between 1988 and 1993, loose fill asbestos may still be present in inaccessible areas such as the wall cavities and cornices of these homes,” Mr Corbell said.
The letter sent to residents of these homes reminds them of the ongoing presence of this loose fill asbestos; and of the need to take extra precautions and seek a professional asbestos assessment before undertaking any renovation work.
“This material can be problematic because it is raw asbestos. This means it can be easy to disturb and fibres can become airborne and inhaled or ingested,” Mr Corbell said.
Since the review of the ACT asbestos management plan in 2005, the Government has been reminding Canberrans of the importance of being aware of the possible dangers of exposure to asbestos.
Most Canberra homes built before 1990 will contain some type of asbestos product and it is important that people know how to deal with these materials so they can reduce their exposure to asbestos fibres.
An extensive advertising campaign ran on television and radio during December and January (the traditional time for renovating) urging people to be careful when dealing with any asbestos products in their homes and to seek professional advice before doing any renovations.
“Left undisturbed some bonded building products containing asbestos pose little risk to public health. However if the asbestos fibres are released through damage or deliberate work then there is the potential for exposure,’’ Mr Corbell said.
“It is also very important to understand that while there is no scientifically based safe level of exposure to these fibres the level of risk of getting an asbestos-related disease is generally very low. However, the risk does increase based on the number of fibres to which a person is exposed, and also the frequency of exposure. Residents who have health concerns should discuss it with their general practitioner.”
The ACT government has a website, www.asbestos.act.gov.au, developed exclusively to provide information on asbestos.