Queanbeyan residents warned on Mr Fluffy asbestos

Not part of the clean-up program: No one knows how many Queanbeyan homes might contain Mr Fluffy asbestos.

Not part of the clean-up program: No one knows how many Queanbeyan homes might contain Mr Fluffy asbestos.

Source: Canberra Times

Eleven property owners in Queanbeyan and tenants of a block of flats have received a letter warning them that Mr Fluffy asbestos could still be in their homes.

While the 1000 or more houses in Canberra with loose-fill asbestos pumped into their ceilings had the bulk of the dangerous material removed 20 years ago, it remains in the ceilings of Queanbeyan homes, with the township never included in the clean-up program.

No one knows how many Queanbeyan homes might contain Mr Fluffy asbestos. Queanbeyan City Council knows of just 11 properties whose owners came forward about the time of the ACT clean-up, but suspects there could be as many as 60 if the same percentage of people used Mr Fluffy insulation as in Canberra.

The 11 properties include a two-storey block of flats that has the material throughout the ceiling cavity.

The council's general manager, Gary Chapman, said the letter had gone to the 11 owners and to the tenants of the block of flats.

It warns that people should not enter the roof space or floor cavity and should not disturb the areas or the walls.

"Any cracks or holes that penetrate the ceiling, walls and floors have the potential to allow fibres into the living areas and should be repaired in a safe manner," it says. "This includes vents in walls, exhaust fans in ceilings, openings for lighting fixtures, maintenance on openings for power points and the like."

It is critical that tradespeople are told about the asbestos, "otherwise there is a high likelihood that they will expose themselves and members of the household to fibres", the letter says, urging householders to also put asbestos warning certificates on their electrical meter boxes and on manholes leading to the roof space.

The letter quotes the NSW Health Department's advice that exposure is likely to be very low provided the asbestos is undisturbed and sealed off from living areas, and says it is therefore important to make sure homes are well maintained.

"It is likely that fibres have travelled down wall cavities and even into sub-floor spaces where these interconnect with the ceiling space," it says. "This should be assumed unless you have evidence to the contrary.

"Even in homes where the asbestos insulation material has been removed from the ceiling space, there is still a high likelihood that asbestos fibres will be found in wall cavities and in underfloor areas where the home has a timber floor."

The council is also considering a "generic statement" about the use of asbestos in pre-1980s houses on conveyancing certificates included with all house sales.

Over the years, Queanbeyan City Council has to persuade the NSW and federal governments to help pay for the asbestos to be removed from homes, offering in 2005 to contribute funds itself, but has been rebuffed at every turn. In June, Queanbeyan major Tim Overall wrote to federal Eden-Monaro MP Peter Hendy and the state MP for the area, John Barilaro, asking for a meeting.

Mr Chapman said the council did not have the money and was not the right authority to deal with the problem.

"If you're talking abut knocking down houses and rebuilding houses, you're talking about many millions of dollars," he said "It could run into tens of millions of dollars and certainly the council doesn't have the finances to do that."

ACT asbestos taskforce head Andrew Kefford confirmed this week he had received inquiries from Queanbeyan residents but had to turn them away.

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