Department of Health

Further sites identified for Sunshine North asbestos testing program

31/10/14
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

A further 20 sites including homes and public facilities are being identified for an asbestos testing program in Sunshine North.

The testing will be carried out at sites neighbouring the Wunderlich factory which produced asbestos cement sheeting before its closure in 1982.

The EPA has already re-tested a number of homes reported to be linked with asbestos and found very small concentrations in roof spaces, but not in a breathable form. No detectable levels of asbestos were found in living areas or soil.

Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer, Professor Michael Ackland said these test results are reassuring.

Professor Michael Ackland said the staged testing program was being carried out after an Expert Advisory Group sought more evidence on whether asbestos in roof spaces posed a current health risk to the community.

“The testing is being carried out by trained professionals and there will be no risk to residents,” Prof Ackland said.

“All results will be reported back to residents together with recommendations and advice.

“The results from the first round of testing will be considered by the Expert Advisory Group for assessment and further advice.

“Houses will be selected based on criteria that include the age of the house and building type and location,” Prof Ackland said.

The Department has also provided additional clinical advice to General Practitioners in the area to respond to residents who may ask specific questions about asbestos-related conditions.

Last night an open house community information session was conducted in Sunshine North by the local council and government agencies to provide local residents with advice and reassurance.

Prof Ackland said anyone with concerns about their health should see their GP.

“And to avoid potential exposure to asbestos people should not enter their roof space without expert advice,” Prof Ackland said.

The former factory site is registered by the Environment Protection Authority as a priority site, which means it requires ongoing management.

The EPA has advised that in the mid 1980s the site was completely capped and sealed and the buildings on the site decontaminated.

Asbestos was used in common building material in Australian homes built from the 1940s into the 1980s. As a result, it is possible to find asbestos cement products and possible asbestos in the roof spaces of older homes in Australia.

Prof Ackland said asbestos in roof spaces did not generally pose a health risk unless disturbed and inhaled.

Generally the most common exposure in the home is contact with weathered and deteriorated asbestos or the removal of or drilling, sawing or sanding of asbestos containing building materials.

Appropriate precautions, including wearing personal protection must be taken when handling any asbestos-containing product. The Victorian government’s asbestos website provides advice for householders about handling asbestos  www.asbestos.vic.gov.au.

Reviewed 31 October 2014

Health.vic

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Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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