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Fair Go: October 12

Published: 4:41PM Wednesday October 12, 2011 Source: Fair Go

ASBESTOS AWARE

Reporter: Hannah Wallis

Podcast One man's experience with his garden shed highlights the continuing dangers from asbestos products in our homes.

Shaun Craill's Dad died from asbestos-related cancer, so Shaun knows all about the dangers of this building product.

When a car crashed into the side of the asbestos-lined garden shed on his rental property, Shaun alerted the property managers, Barfoot and Thompson, that any repair work had to be notified prior to the work being done, so Shaun could be sure it was done properly and so that his family, and the contents of the shed, were protected from contamination.

The builder was organised by the lawn mowing contractor - he's the one that crashed into the shed - and the job took place without Shaun's family being notified beforehand. Shaun found bits of asbestos in the shed after the work had been done, had it tested, and confirmed it was brown and white asbestos. Shaun says Barfoot and Thompson as the property managers should now pay the cost of de-contaminating the contents of the shed - a $4500 job.

Barfoot and Thompson say the builder is adamant the panels he replaced were not asbestos, and he says he wouldn't have worked on them if they were. He bases this on 35 years experience in the industry - he is not asbestos certified.

Shaun says two sides of the shed were damaged - one side was not asbestos, the other one was. 

Barfoot and thompson say they did take Shaun's concerns seriously and agree that they failed to notify the family before the work started, and they apologise for this. They relied on independent expert testing to determine there is no on-going health risk, and say if not satisfied, Shaun can take the matter to the Tenancy Tribunal.

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Asbestos has been used in walls, floors, ceilings, rooves and even fences right up until the 1980s, when it was withdrawn as a building product. Even a small amount - a single fibre - can be dangerous if inhaled - and these fibres are not visible to the naked eye.

DIY - is it safe?

If you do have what you think is asbestos around your home, it is safe for the home handyperson to work with as long as it is not broken. And even if unbroken, Rick Peebles of Asbestos Solutions suggests wearing disposable overalls, booties and hood, and an asbestos-quality facemask - that's a P3. That kit will probably cost around $60.

If working with broken asbestos, or if you have broken pieces as part of a shed or fence, you can protect yourself by coating the broken edges with paint, to seal them in. If you want to get rid of asbestos pieces, you should dispose of them in an approved asbestos dump - but be warned, these are few and far between and expensive - $300 minimum tip fee. For further information checkout the Ministry of Health Website.

When to call in the experts?

If you have what's called friable asbestos - that's sprayed on - in you ceiling or in your insulation, or if you have an old asbestos-backed lino that needs lifting, or any asbestos job where you will generate dust - then  these are definitely jobs for the experts. And once you've called someone in to work on the asbestos - then it becomes a Department of Labour matter and their rules kick in, including issuing the proper notifications to any affected parties, getting the proper certification for the person/people doing the work, and the way the work itself must be done, and how the material must be disposed of. Check out this website for a truly comprehensive backgrounder about asbestos removal.

When hiring someone to work with asbestos ensure they have the certificate of competency issued by the Labour Department. The asbestos expert in our story is Rick Peebles of Asbestos Solutions, based in Auckland and Hamilton

Rick Peebles says asbestos panels are usually grey or light brown, cement/fibrolite looking material often with a rippled or dimpled surface. Asbestos backed lino looks like a cardboard backing that sticks to the floor when the vinyl is pulled away. Removing this lino really is a job for the experts, and any sander used for cleaning up afterward should only be used for asbestos jobs. Also be careful with vacuuming up after asbestos jobs - you need to use a vacuum cleaner which can be fitted with an disposable asbestos filter.

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