Those looking to return to damaged or burnt buildings should be extra wary of the threat of asbestos, a NSW building inspector has warned.

Archicentre, the building inspection arm of the Australian Institute of Architects, has highlighted the increased asbestos risk that burnt out residential and commercial properties carry.

Although asbestos is generally safe when undisturbed, any damage to a building can expose it to the open and cause an immediate health risk.

“[Asbestos products] are considered a health hazard once they are disturbed, broken, blown or washed away with exposure linked to mesothelioma cancer years after the exposure,” said Archicentre General Manager Cameron Frazer.

“The major hazard stems from the toxic asbestos fibres becoming airborne.”

He went on to point out that the extensive natural disasters Australia sees, such as bushfires, increases the risk of exposed asbestos in this country and homeowners are urged to exercise caution when revisiting damaged properties.

“When a single home in the suburbs is burnt down, considerable care is taken in the inspection and removal of debris because of the presence of asbestos,” he said.

“In the case of such widespread destruction of homes in bushfires, similar issues are involved.”

With temperatures across Australia set to soar in coming months and increase the risk of bushfires, people who engage in asbestos removal are advised to keep on top of their OHS procedures.

Peter Dunphy, chair of the Asbestos Education Committee, also stressed the importance of having a professional carry out any asbestos removal work.

“If homeowners suspect they have asbestos in their home and want it removed, we recommend using a licensed asbestos removalist just as they’d use a licenced electrician for electrical work because of the dangers of working with electricity,” he said.

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