In the lead up to Asbestos Awareness Week, Wingecarribee Shire Council is reminding home owners and renovators of the risks of asbestos.
“Asbestos was widely used in building materials up until the mid-1980s,” said Council’s Environmental Assessment Manager, Les Pawlak. “And even though the manufacture and use of asbestos was banned almost ten years ago, it can still be found in many houses across our Shire that were built up until this period.”
In NSW, the use of asbestos was discontinued in all fibro sheets and products by the mid-1980s. After this, asbestos continued to be used principally in friction products, for brake and clutch linings. The manufacture and use of asbestos products was banned nationally in Australia from 31 December 2003.
“In the past few years we’ve seen a real boom across the country in DIY and home renovations,” Mr Pawlak said. “It’s particularly important for residents who are preparing to undertake any works on houses built up until this period to take the proper precautions.”
Just some of the home building products that were commonly made from bonded asbestos cement included fibro sheeting (flat and corrugated), water drainage and flue pipes, roofing shingles and guttering, even the backing of vinyl sheet floor coverings.
These precautions also extend outside of the house.
“Property owners should also be mindful of accepting any fill onto their property that isn’t certified as clean fill,” Mr Pawlak added. “Should any fill be deposited and later found to contain asbestos or contaminants, it will ultimately be the owner of the property responsible for cleaning the material up.”
For information on the safe removal of asbestos visit The WorkCover Authority of NSW at www.workcover.nsw.gov.au or phone 13 10 50 or if in further doubt contact a licensed Asbestos Removalist or Asbestos Consultant. Information on the health effects of asbestos can be found at www.health.nsw.gov.au.
For general asbestos queries contact Wingecarribee Shire Council on phone 4868 0888.
Unfortunately the renovating boom has also seen increased instances of asbestos dumped across the Shire.
“Council has a zero tolerance approach to illegal dumping and any offender caught will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Mr Pawlak said.
Penalties for dumping include on-the-spot fines of up to $5,000 and magistrates can issue penalties of up to $5,000,000 for corporations and $1,000,000 and/or 7 years imprisonment for individuals.
“Dumping of asbestos in particular, is insidious and the potential consequences if children were to find the material could be tragic,” Mr Pawlak said.
“Unless you take the required safety precautions and follow regulations, the message is – don’t cut it, don’t drill it, don’t drop it, don’t sand it, don’t saw it, don’t scrape it, don’t scrub it, don’t dismantle it, don’t tip it, don’t waterblast it, don’t demolish it and whatever you do… don’t dump it!”
National Asbestos Awareness Week runs from Monday 26 to Friday 30 November. Additional information can also be found at www.asbestosawareness.com.au.