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19 November 2014

Be ‘asbestos aware’ during maintenance and renovations

WA Health is encouraging Western Australians to be 'asbestos aware' when renovating or maintaining properties built before 1990.

National Asbestos Awareness Week, which runs from Monday 24 Friday 28 November 2014, is a national initiative which aims to inform the community about asbestos and asbestos-related disease.

Dr Mike Lindsay, Acting Director of Environmental Health, said most people believed asbestos was only found in roofs, fences or walls in older style houses. However, products containing asbestos can also include paper backing material on sheet linoleum, backing panels in meter boxes and vinyl floor tiles.

"These types of products pose little risk to health when they are in good condition and undisturbed. But, homeowners need to take precautions when they are renovating or doing maintenance work to prevent asbestos fibres being released into the air," he said.

"Asbestos containing products can be difficult to identify just by looking at them. So, if in any doubt, treat it like it is asbestos—just to be on the safe side."

Correct disposal of asbestos containing products was also important, with a 2011 Department of Health WA survey finding that 25 per cent of asbestos-related complaints to local government were about the illegal dumping of asbestos containing products.

Lindsay said homeowners should contact their local government for information about licensed waste facilities which provided disposal options for asbestos containing products.

"Being 'asbestos aware' is more than just being aware of asbestos products in your own backyard—it is also about being aware of it in the community and reporting illegal dumping of asbestos containing products to your local government for your safety and that of others."

WA Health's top tips to be 'asbestos aware':

  • If doing maintenance, or renovating a house built before 1990, be aware it could have asbestos containing products and treat them with caution
  • If buying a house, ask that asbestos containing products be assessed as part of the building inspection report
  • Don't use power tools to drill, cut, sand or remove materials containing asbestos, as this will release asbestos fibres
  • Never use a high pressure cleaner to clean asbestos cement roofing or cladding
  • If removing small amounts of asbestos containing products yourself, learn how to safely remove and dispose of them first. A good example of educational material available is the "kNOw asbestos in your home" information and online course on the Cancer Council WA website
  • If in doubt, hire a licensed asbestos removalist and check that the work area is free from visible asbestos at the end of the job.

Homeowners are encouraged to contact their local government environmental health team for more information.

WA Health also provides key information on asbestos on its website. Visit and look for "Asbestos and Public Health" in the A–Z list.

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

Follow us on Twitter: @WAHealth

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