December 18, 2015

Lung Foundation Australia warns Sydney to take care cleaning up

Lung Foundation Australia is warning people to be careful of possible exposure to asbestos after the massive winds that shook Sydney earlier this week.

While there has been a concerted effort to remove asbestos from homes during the past few decades, many older homes might still contain asbestos, usually as asbestos boarding in kitchens, garages, bathrooms or extensions and as asbestos roofing.

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said you can’t tell whether something contains asbestos just by looking at it.

“About one third of all homes built in Australia contain asbestos products and any home built prior to 1991 could possibly contain asbestos products,” Mrs Allan said.

“If there is any doubt, you are better to err on the side of caution and call in the experts.

“If accidental exposure occurs, we recommend you take prompt steps to manage it by reducing personal exposure and preventing further occurrences.

“For example, while wearing a mask, you could remove broken pieces, wipe down surfaces with a wet cloth, close doors and windows or even temporarily relocate while the work is being carried out by professionals.

“People are also advised to be careful when checking their roof, particularly if it may contain asbestos or other brittle material and, if you suspect any damage may have exposed asbestos, have the roof properly assessed by a licensed professional.”

Associate Professor Deborah Yates from Sydney’s St Vincent Hospital said asbestos fibres that were inhaled into the lungs could become lodged or embedded into the lung tissue.

“These fibres can irritate lung tissue surrounding them and may cause a number of health problems in the future,” Associate Professor Yates said.

“Asbestos-related lung diseases can take many years to develop with some cases being detected up to 20 – 40 years after exposure,” she said.

“That is why it is so important to be safe now.”

Lung Foundation Australia said it was important to note that minor inhalation of asbestos fibres do not usually result in an asbestos related disease but that people should always avoid the risk of exposure where possible.

As well as asbestos, the storm damage may have released pollens, dust and fibres into the atmosphere.

To arrange an interview, please call Damon Cavalchini on 07 3251 3643 or 0411 609 681.

Background information

Friable asbestos products are generally quite soft and loose and can be crumbled into fine dust with very light pressure, such as crushing in your hand. Friable asbestos products contain high levels of asbestos (up to 100%) loosely held in the product so that the asbestos fibres are easily released into the air. Thermal insulation around pipes is an example of a friable asbestos product.

Friable asbestos products are dangerous because the asbestos fibres can get into the air very easily, and may be inhaled by people living or working in the vicinity.


Bonded asbestos products are made from a bonding compound (such as cement) mixed with a small proportion of asbestos (usually less than 15%). Fibro Sheeting is an example of a bonded asbestos product.

Although bonded asbestos products do not normally release any asbestos fibres into the air and are considered a very low risk, there is potential for damaged or weathered (including hail damage) products to become friable thereby creating the risk of releasing asbestos fibres into the air.


For more advice and information contact:


DIY Safe

NSW Ministry of Health


Asbestos Awareness


Lung Foundation Australia or phone freecall 1800 654 301