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Asbestos In The Neighbourhood? Here’s What To Do About It

Many structures in NZ contain asbestos that their occupants may not even be aware of. If you notice asbestos in a neighbouring property, here are your options.

Before or during the early 1980s, plenty of builders used asbestos in their buildings, and it’s not always noticeable today. Some people are unaware of the risks, or what asbestos might look like too. So the first step could be to have a friendly chat about your observations with your neighbour. They may have just assumed that a crumbling sheet is just that, without realising the risks it poses to themselves or others. Explaining the risks politely to them could spur them to action. 

It’s also possible that they’ve had the asbestos checked by experts and the advice has been to leave it as is. Asbestos is only dangerous when it’s ‘friable’ or disintegrating. If the asbestos is in good condition, experts often recommend that you leave it be. So, that’s why a polite friendly conversation is the first stop.

What are Your Options if Your Neighbour’s House Has Asbestos?

If you aren’t able to approach your neighbours for any reason, or if they don’t take your concerns seriously, you can get in touch with your local council. Private properties are the sole responsibility of their owners, however, the council could have a conversation with the owners for you. Or if the owners are not living on the property or you’re unable to locate them, the council will be able to track them or their next of kin down in order to resolve the issue.

When a problem is a public health risk – such as contaminants released into the air -the details of the Resource Management Act give local councils the power to get involved and resolve matters.  If the property is abandoned or the council cannot identify or track down the owner, it can be taken over by the Crown in order to assess and/or remove the asbestos.

How Can You Take Samples of Asbestos Exposure?

At the moment, there are no tests that people can take to understand if they have been exposed to asbestos or what degree of exposure they may have had. Unfortunately, symptoms of serious illnesses like mesothelioma only appear years later in the form of a persistent cough, pain and shortness of breath, among others.

However, everyone can test properties if asbestos particles are suspected to be present. If you suspect the presence of asbestos, the Ministry of Health recommends the following:

  • Testing samples of your environment, including air samples
  • Taking a look at historical records, organising inspections and interviewing relevant members of the community to understand the area and property better
  • Wearing a monitor to take personal samples of air in your breathing zone

What Do I Do If My Property Has Asbestos?

If you haven’t built the house you live in but live on an older property, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that it contains asbestos. If you have only recently become aware of this material on your property, the first step is to get it tested as soon as an inspection can be arranged.

In case, it is recommended that you have the asbestos removed, it is best to inform your neighbours how long this would take and how the process may affect their lives. It is in your best interest to keep communication with them open and honest. To reassure them, you could even ask the expert to explain the situation and processes that are being followed to keep everyone safe.

How Can I Tell if My Property Contains Asbestos?

The only way to be completely sure is to arrange for an inspection. Some signs that your home or property may contain asbestos are:

  • It was built before the 1980s
  • Your home has corrugated roofing or your walls are made from sheets of cement
  • Your insulation contains vermiculite
  • The property had vinyl flooring put in approximately between the years of 1952-82
  • Some older cement water tanks could contain asbestos as well

Can I Remove Asbestos From My Property on My Own?

Asbestos is most dangerous when it has been damaged and is disintegrating. This is why removing asbestos from a home is a careful and controlled procedure with its own protocol in place. 

The safest way to do it is to hire a licenced asbestos abatement company. They will have the required protective equipment and specialised tools to work carefully.  Once the asbestos has been collected, it cannot be dumped in our usual bins. It needs to be carefully packed and disposed of as per a pre-decided protocol.

Besides it being extremely dangerous, in several places, it is against the law for unlicensed professionals to remove asbestos (more than 10m2) from any property.

If you’re not sure, call us at TechClean. We can test for asbestos, advise you if it needs to be removed, and provide a quote for the work. If you’re worried about a neighbouring property, chat with us and we might be able to give you some advice.

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