Asbestos is hazardous but you can manage it safely
Asbestos materials can be present in flood-affected areas if the buildings were built before 1990.
Asbestos is hazardous but can be managed safely. It could be in the form of flat or corrugated sheets (fibro) used for walls, ceilings and roofing, or in products such as pipes, electrical conduit, eaves or the backing under vinyl flooring.
A licensed asbestos removalist is the best way to remove asbestos, but this may not be possible for you right now.
Asbestos materials are less of a risk when they are wet. If members of the community find asbestos debris on their property, and a licensed removalist is not an option, they should at a minimum
- Wear gloves and a P2 mask (not an ordinary paper mask or bandanna).
- Wear protective overalls or a shirt with long sleeves and trousers.
- Pick up (don’t sweep) the pieces of asbestos and place in a thick plastic bag, together with the gloves and face mask when finished.
- Knot the top of the plastic bag when finished.
- Place the knotted plastic bag into a second empty plastic bag and knot the top.
- Label the bag as asbestos materials.
- Wash and clean hands thoroughly with soap and water.
This advice and more is available on the NSW Government’s asbestos website.
Handling of asbestos
You can remove asbestos materials that are already broken and dislodged. DO NOT cut or break asbestos materials – this may release fibres that you and others can breathe in. If there is damage, we strongly recommend getting a licensed asbestos professional in.
If you are cleaning asbestos materials in your house, use a domestic hose, soapy water and a light sponge, cloth or soft brush. Don’t use a high-pressure water cleaner because this can release asbestos fibres.
It is important to remember to keep asbestos waste separated from other waste. Do not put it in the red-lid bin or general waste skip bins. This is important to keep the community, volunteers and clean-up crews safe.
The community should follow advice from the local emergency services or council on where to put separated waste in preparation for it to be removed. Clean-up contractors engaged by the NSW Government have been briefed about a range of hazardous materials you might come across, including gas bottles, household chemicals etc. They have procedures in place to handle these wastes appropriately.
If homes have asbestos that has been disturbed or damaged then it is recommended that residents find somewhere else to stay until the asbestos has been safely managed by a licensed removalist.
How to deal with flood-affected asbestos yourself
Using a licensed asbestos removalist is the best way to remove asbestos, but this may not be possible after a flood or storm.
A licensed asbestos removalist knows how to safely remove and dispose of asbestos, then decontaminate your property to minimise health risks.
- If you are not using a licensed removalist you can remove asbestos on your property safely by following these steps: Obtain 2 thick plastic bags, disposable plastic gloves or washing up gloves.
- Obtain a P2 face mask from a hardware store. Masks used for COVID-19 won’t protect you.
- Put on the mask and gloves before starting to clean-up
- Pick up (don’t sweep) pieces of asbestos and place them in plastic bag
- When finished remove gloves and face mask and place them in plastic bag
- Knot the top of the plastic bag and then place the knotted plastic bag into the second empty plastic bag and then knot the top
- Clearly label the bag as asbestos.
- Wash and clean hands thoroughly with soap and water
- Keep asbestos waste separated from other waste you remove
- Follow advice from the local emergency services or council on where to put separated waste
- DO NOT put asbestos waste in red-lid bins or skip bins that aren’t meant for asbestos waste. This is vital to keep your family, volunteers and clean-up crews safe.
- See more information about managing asbestos after emergencies and disasters.