You don’t have to work in the construction or mining industry to be exposed to asbestos. Being in a country that has an extensive history of asbestos use, Australians have a high risk of asbestos exposure.
According to the country’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, a third of the homes across Australia contain asbestos material. From a building’s roofing to its fencing, structures built before 1990 are likely to contain asbestos products.
So if you live or work in an old building, and you’ve done some repairs or renovations, you’re at risk of asbestos exposure. And with asbestos risk comes the risk of lung diseases such as pleural thickening, a scarring of the lungs that makes breathing difficult, as well as asbestos-related lung cancers.
No need to panic, fortunately. The first step is to determine if you really are at risk or have been exposed.
Is It Really Asbestos?
It is hard to determine if an object has asbestos just by looking at it. Asbestos comes in many forms, with no uniform appearance. In most commercial forms, asbestos looks like insulation sheets. Asbestos sprayed coatings and asbestos textured coatings look different altogether.
So if you’ve worked in plumbing and tiling areas and discovered something that you suspect is asbestos, the best way to determine if this is truly the hazardous substance is to have the area tested by licensed asbestos experts.
While waiting for the results, make sure that no person comes into contact with the suspected area.
If the results are positive, you will need professional asbestos removal and disposal as well as medical attention and legal counsel.
Seek Medical Attention
Exposure to asbestos won’t immediately lead to illness or life-threatening problems. However, if you have been exposed to the mineral, consult a physician to determine if you need powerful expectorants or a chest x-ray.
They can also refer you to a centre or a doctor in your area that specialises in asbestos exposure and asbestos-related illnesses. Since the effects of asbestos aren’t immediate, ask for annual pulmonary check-ups and consider regular pulmonary function tests to monitor if there are changes.
What If I Don’t Own the Property Where the Asbestos is Present?
If the property where you were exposed to asbestos is owned by someone else, immediately inform the property owner. According to the law, the owner is required to take steps to have all asbestos present removed. If the owner refuses to take proper action, you can contact your local board of health to report the asbestos.
Seek Legal Counsel
Should you decide to take legal action, getting in touch with a lawyer will help you cover all your bases. A legal professional can give you advice on the documentation you will need, such as medical records and asbestos testing report.
It can take years for asbestos-related symptoms to take effect — and not everyone exposed to asbestos get sick — but being prepared for when the time comes can help you later down the road.
Prioritising Your Health and Safety
EOSH Consulting is dedicated to providing Perth with specialist occupational health, safety, environmental and hygiene services. Committed to creating and maintaining safer working and living spaces, we offer comprehensive solutions from asbestos inspection and testing to expert witness support.
For asbestos-free premises, contact EOSH Consulting’s friendly team today.