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Asbestos clean-up warning after Pilbara cyclone

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Media Release

Published on

Pilbara residents who are cleaning-up after Cyclone Christine are urged to be careful of asbestos which may have been disturbed by the damaging winds and rain.

Slater and Gordon asbestos lawyer Laine McDonald warned locals of the risks of asbestos dust when fixing and cleaning their properties and homes.

“Once asbestos has been disturbed, it can pose a real danger to health,” Ms McDonald said.

"Residents who are returning to their homes and businesses could be at risk of exposure, especially if they start cleaning up without the right protections.

"While it’s difficult to tell if a structure contains asbestos, if it was built before the mid 1980s – the time when this common building product was phased out – you should assume there’s a risk.”

Ms McDonald said asbestos was mined in Wittenoom, exported from Point Samson and used as a construction material throughout the Pilbara.

"Asbestos products damaged by severe storms like Cyclone Christine can release a very dangerous dust which, once breathed in, can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other serious illnesses,” Ms McDonald said.

“Each year, around 250 Western Australians die from asbestos-related diseases, with a lag of about 30 to 40 years between exposure and diagnosis of an illness.

“Asbestos products are still in our homes, businesses and communities more than 40 years after the Wittenoom mine closed, so it's a hazard that continues to confront us all."

Information about handling asbestos during the clean-up can be found on the Department of Health's website http://www.public.health.wa.gov.au/3/1143/2/asbestos_in_the_home.pm.

The website includes these key points to remember:

  • Wet the surface of asbestos material down before commencing removal.
  •  Do not use power tools on any asbestos material.
  •  Wear suitable personal protective clothing.
  •  Dispose of asbestos material at an approved landfill site.