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New asbestos risk for DIY renovators

Friday, 28th August, 2009

By Gina Wilson

The city's home renovators may have inadvertently come into contact with deadly asbestos fibres as revelations unfold about hessian bags formerly filled with the substance being used as carpet underlay.

Earlier this week, ABC TV's 7.30 Report said asbestos company James Hardie sold hessian bags formerly filled with asbestos for recycling, with many used as underlay.

Tens of thousands of homes whose carpets were laid before the 1950s may well host the product, with local Master Builders Association (MBA) president John Franklyn saying it was probable that some Broken Hill homes had the asbestos underlay. "It's a difficult one. It could be all over Australia," Mr Franklyn said. "People should err on the side of caution. Use a disposable suit, a P2 mask and disposable gloves then dispose of them and the tools used in the correct manner." The MBA, which held a "safe removal of asbestos in buildings" course this week, said renovators could have easily breathed in asbestos while renovating their homes without knowing. Registered asbestos removal trainer, Peter Becker, said he had no idea about the hessian bag underlay until Wednesday. "I learn something new about asbestos every time I do a course," he said. "But this is a new revelation." Mr Becker said renovators need to protect themselves any way they can or face the chance of contracting mesothelioma, the deadly lung condition caused by the asbestos fibre. "People need to be aware of this," he said. "This product has been mismanaged deliberately with no explanation. "When you rip the carpet up is when you get the problem." It was revealed this week that James Hardie knew for 30 years, until the early 1970s, that hessian bags formerly used to transport asbestos were recycled as carpet underlay. The Asbestos Diseases Foundation said renovators were the next wave of Australians lining up for the compensation fund James Hardie set up for those who get mesothelioma. Mr Franklyn said asbestos was found in more than 3,000 building products including ceilings, walls, bathroom floors, drain pipes and water pipes. He advised home owners to always use licenced, competent tradespeople to undertake work on the home.

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