Leading asbestos law firm, Maurice Blackburn is urging federal, state and local governments to direct extra resources to ensure the safe removal of asbestos from bushfire damaged properties so that residents and the surrounding community are protected from exposure to the deadly fibres.
Maurice Blackburn Principal, Sally Weir says one in three properties built in Australia before 1985 contain asbestos and residents returning to their homes must exercise extreme caution.
“Asbestos was a very common building material – perhaps even more so in holiday and farming communities – and the greatest risk of exposure occurs when asbestos sheeting has been damaged,” Ms Weir said.
“It is when the asbestos fibres become air-borne that it’s at its most dangerous and can cause diseases such as mesothelioma many years later.”
Ms Weir echoed the advice of the NSW and Victorian governments for property owners to use licenced asbestos removalists as they go about clearing up after the fires.
“However, with thousands of properties damaged or destroyed during this catastrophe, the demand for licenced operators in the regional areas could outstrip currently available resources.
“It’s vital that all levels of government from local councils through to the federal government work with insurers to monitor the availability of removal services in the affected areas to ensure that residents have access to safe and cost-effective decontamination of their properties,” Ms Weir said.
“The websites of WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW have information on identifying and dealing with asbestos at your home, including a list of licenced removalists.
“Our clients know from bitter experience that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres,” Ms Weir said.
“The impact of these catastrophic fires will no doubt sadly be felt for many, many years.
“It’s therefore imperative that we do everything to ensure that the people are protected as much as is humanly possible from a preventable deadly legacy in the years to come.”