Asbestos scare for Collie resident

Warning: Thomas Cleary with the asbestos caution sheet that was placed on his home.
Warning: Thomas Cleary with the asbestos caution sheet that was placed on his home.

WHEN Thomas Cleary had guests over one evening, little did he suspect some light conversation would have him packing his bags less than two weeks later.

His guest had pointed out that his rental home had exposed asbestos around the property.

The material, which is now banned for use in Australia, is safe if left undisturbed.

However, if cut, drilled, sanded or machined it can release asbestos fibres into the air. 

Inhaling these fibres can cause slow-developing deadly lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Homes built before the mid-1980s are highly likely to contain asbestos-containing products.

Upon further investigation Mr Cleary found broken asbestos as part of renovations done to the property.

"I was really quite shocked," Mr Cleary said.

Dumped: Asbestos fragments underneath the house.

Dumped: Asbestos fragments underneath the house.

"They had simply cut the asbestos, and disposed of it under the house."

Seeking the quiet rural life, Mr Cleary and his partner Sally Jones had moved to the freshly renovated Patstone road residence late last year.

"We moved here because we liked the peace and quiet," he said.

"We never expected to find something like this."

"The floorboards are not airtight - we have been sleeping directly above this.

"Our grand-kids have slept just a few feet from it."

"It's just so upsetting - we've been breathing that stuff in for nearly six months."

When Mr Cleary raised his concerns with his property manager, he was told there was nothing to be concerned about.

"At first they wanted to send a handyman," he said.

"I told them not to touch it until we move out."

The decontamination of the home is expected to take 6-8 hours and is estimated to cost nearly $3000.

Mr Cleary points out where asbestos had been re-used around the home. According to the Collie Shire, "all new works are to be carried out using new materials".

Mr Cleary points out where asbestos had been re-used around the home. According to the Collie Shire, "all new works are to be carried out using new materials".

After the issue was raised to the Council, inspectors came out and inspected the home.

"We have undertaken assessment of the house and determined that the asbestos is not friable and there are no dust particles being generated as a result of the pieces laying under the house," Collie Shire chief executive officer David Blurton said. 

"Other asbestos material has been identified at the site is bonded and the property managers have been notified to seal and cap the bottom area of these sheets as a precautionary measure. 

"There are no health hazards occurring due to the current state of the asbestos.

Mr Blurton said records indicated that approvals had been issued in the past for various works on the property.

"It should be noted that all new works are to be carried out using new materials," he said.

"An advice note on most building permits advises of the need to dispose of any asbestos in accordance with heath regulations. 

"The property owner/managers have also been advised to remove the sheeting under the house. 

"This will be required to be removed and disposed of by someone licensed to remove asbestos products."

Mr Blurton urged residents to engage experienced and licensed professionals to undertake home renovations and asbestos removal. 

"Householders who choose to do their own renovation or 'DIY' work should follow the advice provided by the Department of Health to reduce the health risk to them and their families to a very low level," he said.

As for Thomas and Sally, they are simply trying to put the ordeal behind them.

"We now have to live with the anxiety of not knowing what we've sucked up," Mr Cleary said.

"I just want this to serve as a warning to other people - check your home before you move in.

"Get a professional to deal with your asbestos. Don't risk your health or the health of others.'"

Asbestos A Guide for Householders and General Public is available on the Department of Health website.

People who have any concern with asbestos form a public health perspective they can contact the Council’s Environmental Health Officer, James McEachern on 9734 9000.

When approached by The Collie Mail, the home-owner and property manager both declined to comment.