Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Asbestos awareness

November is Asbestos Awareness Month.

(The Blue Lamington Drive raise funds for the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute.)

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral with remarkable physical properties – but inhaling the fibres can cause  disability and death (from asbestosis and cancer).
Prior to 1987, asbestos was used in a great variety of building products, and used so much that one in three Australian homes still contain it... somewhere. Fibro walls, roofs and fences are what most people think of when they think asbestos, but it's also in brick and weatherboard houses, in the eaves, around the pipes, and under the tiles and floor coverings.
Products containing bonded asbestos that are in sound condition are usually safe if left undisturbed. It is when a bonded asbestos product becomes degraded – particularly if it is reduced to powder, through drilling or abrasion – or if the asbestos is in a loose fibrous form, that asbestos fibres can be inhaled and presents a real hazard. 
So the standard advice in relation to asbestos products is
  • If you don't know whether something contains asbestos, assume it does; and
  • 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!
As a tenant, you're not likely to be charging around doing renovations and disturbing asbestos yourself, but you should still be asbestos-aware. 
  • Report to your landlord any damage to things at the premises, particularly where they contain asbestos. 
  • Direct your landlord to NSW WorkCover's asbestos resources page for information on dealing with asbestos safely and legally. 
  • Read the TenantsNSW factsheet for more information about your own options. 

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