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The mere mention of the word asbestos is enough to raise a red flag with Australian homeowners, DIY renovators, builders and many other workers across a range of industries.

The name Mr Fluffy can also cause similar level of concern amongst homeowners and renovators, with more than a thousand homes potentially contaminated by the loose-fill asbestos which was sold as home insulation in the 1960s and 70s.

Originally the areas identified were around Canberra in the ACT, but the NSW government has now announced an extension of their free testing program for homes in the Blue Mountains, Bathurst and Oberon.

There are now more than 60 Local Government Areas across New South Wales where owners of to pre-1980s residential premises are eligible for free testing for loose-fill asbestos insulation on a full or limited basis, including:

Albury, Bankstown, Bathurst, Bega Valley Shire, Berrigan Shire, Bland, Blayney, Blue Mountains, Bombala, Boorowa, Cabonne, Conargo, Coolamon, Cooma Monaro Shire, Cootamundra, Corowa, Cowra, Deniliquin, Eurobodalla Shire, Forbes, Goulburn Mulwaree, Greater Hume Shire, Griffith, Gundagai, Harden, Hay, Hornsby Shire, Jerilderie, Junee, Kiama, Ku-ring-gai Shire, Lachlan, Leeton, Lithgow, Lockhart, Manly, Murray, Murrumbidgee, Narrandera Shire, North Sydney, Oberon, Orange, Palerang, Parkes, Parramatta, Queanbeyan, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Snowy River Shire, Temora, The Hills Shire, Tumbarumba, Tumut, Upper Lachlan Shire, Urana, Wagga Wagga, Warringah, Weddin, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly, Wollongong, Yass Valley Shire, Young Shire.

The best way to stay informed about the program is to register with the NSW Department of Fair Trading. You can register online by visiting the Department of Fair Trading website or by telephoning the NSW Department of Fair Trading on: 13 77 88.

If loose asbestos is found, the government is offering a voluntary Purchase and Demolition program with the options of either:

Option 1:

Purchasing the dwelling (just the dwelling itself, not the land) at market value which is valued as though there was no asbestos present, demolishing the dwelling, remediating the land and giving it back to you so you can rebuild.

Option 2:

Purchasing the land and dwelling, demolishing dwelling, remediating the land and selling the property. Have a look at the NSW Department of Fair Trading website or give them a call to check out the criteria in more detail. For those that qualify, there is also an assistance program available to assist with temporary relocation, counselling etc.

Both options might not be available to you so it is best to contact the Department for more information. The cut-off date for registrations is 1 August 2016, so don’t delay.

It is also important to remember that while the contamination rate is very low (only three out of 528 tested houses were confirmed to be contaminated by Mr Fluffy in Lithgow), it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to asbestos.

Approximately one third of all homes built in Australia contain asbestos products so it’s important to be aware of the risk factors. These include:

1. When your house was built

Asbestos containing building materials were manufactured in Australia up until at least the mid-1980s, so it is highly likely that your house contains asbestos if it was constructed prior to that time.

Built before the mid-1980s: Highly likely to have asbestos containing materials.
Built between the mid-1980s and 1990: Likely to have asbestos containing materials.
Built after 1990: Unlikely to have asbestos containing materials.

Asbestos containing building materials were manufactured in Australia up until at least the mid-1980s, so it is highly likely that your house contains asbestos if it was constructed prior to that time.

2. The repair status of buildings

The presence of asbestos containing materials can pose a significant health risk, especially if a building is in a state of disrepair or weathered. Disturbing materials can also be a risk and some of the most common sources of asbestos in the home or office include:

  • Roof sheeting
  • Guttering
  • Pipes and flues
  • Wall sheeting
  • Vinyl sheet flooring
  • Carpet and tile underlays
  • Imitation brick cladding
  • Fencing
  • Carports and sheds
  • Cement sheeting
  • Insulation
  • Concrete formwork

3. The source of the materials

Asbestos has been banned in Australia since 31 December 2003, but it is still widely used in other countries around the world. It is illegal to import products containing asbestos into Australia, but unfortunately, building materials laced with the deadly substances are still finding their way onto our shores. This is a threat to the safety of builders and home renovators alike, so it is incredibly important that people using imported, prefabricated building materials are certain of the quality and are aware that some asbestos-free guarantees are not genuine.

The damage asbestos can do is profound - Asbestosis, Mesothelioma and other related Dust Diseases have a harrowing effect on both the sufferer and their loved ones.

It can take years before any symptoms show up and any exposure, no matter how small should be ignored. Slater and Gordon offers a free register so you can record exposure to asbestos (whether Mr Fluffy or not), just click here: Slater and Gordon Registry.

There is also a National register run by the government which can be found here: Government Registry.

Recalling the dates, times and places of exposure to asbestos will become harder the more years that go by and you may need to pin point with some degree of accuracy those details at some time in the future, so if you or anyone you know has been exposed please consider registration with one or both of those databases. It is also important to discuss a potential exposure with your General Practitioner so it is recorded.

The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.

Thank you for your feedback.

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