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  • 18 Jan 2016

Asbestos Warning after Bushfires, Storms

With parts of Australia already experiencing serious bushfires and storms, the Australian Government agency tasked with co-ordinating national efforts to tackle asbestos is warning home and building owners to be aware of the dangers of disturbed asbestos after a natural disaster.

The CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Peter Tighe, said it was important that people in affected areas knew what to do in the event their home or business became damaged by a natural disaster.

“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,” Mr Tighe said.

“With one third of homes in Australia today contain asbestos products, the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres after a natural disaster can be very high.

“State Government disaster recovery planning regularly includes contingencies and funding to clean up asbestos following an emergency.

“It is very important that affected communities follow instructions issued by the disaster recovery agencies in their state or territory as they are developed specifically to prevent unnecessary exposure to asbestos fibres caused by damaged asbestos materials.

“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.

“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, which you can find out about from your local council.

“Contacting your local council and state emergency services is a good place to start if faced with building damage from a fire, flood or other natural disaster.”

Under the National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness, the Australian Government, in partnership with all states and territories, is taking a national approach to asbestos. This includes supporting Australian communities to manage asbestos risks during natural disasters.

The Agency’s November 2015 international conference in Brisbane featured a session on sharing experiences of managing asbestos following a natural disaster from both WorkSafe New Zealand on the Canterbury earthquakes, and NSW Office of Emergency Management on recent recovery events.