With fires, floods and wild weather hitting parts of Australia, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency is warning Australian home and building owners to be aware of the dangers of asbestos following natural disasters.
Chief executive Peter Tighe said it was important that people in affected areas knew what to do in the event their home or business sustained damage.
“Around 12 Australians die every week from mesothelioma in Australia, and we have one of the highest rates of asbestos-related disease and death anywhere in the world,” Tighe said.
“With one third of homes in Australia today containing asbestos products, the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres after a natural disaster can be very high."
Asbestos containing materials include roof sheeting and capping, guttering, vinyl sheet flooring, carpet and tile underlays, fencing, carport and sheds, and waterproof membrane. If these materials are damaged, deadly asbestos can be exposed.
“The cyclone in Sydney’s southern suburbs and the bushfires along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria are two most recent examples of how easily people in our community can be exposed to deadly asbestos following natural disasters,” Tighe said.
Asbestos was long viewed as one of the most versatile minerals due to its flexibility, strength, insulation from heat and electricity, chemical inertness and affordability. In the mid-1980s Australia was one of the highest asbestos users per capita in the world.
Tighe said properly maintaining and removing asbestos was important to prevent unnecessary exposure to asbestos fibres caused by damaged materials.
“It is very important that affected communities follow instructions issued by the disaster recovery agencies in their state or territory," he said.
“The safe removal and disposal of asbestos from a damaged property is critical. This may require a building licence or in the case of removal, or a building a demolition licence, from your local council."