The discovery of potentially deadly loose-fill asbestos insulation in a Glendale house was almost certainly not an isolated case, the head of the Federal Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency believes.
Peter Tighe said experience elsewhere in NSW and the ACT had shown that several houses within close proximity had tested positive to the material.
“We have found there have usually been clusters within a one kilometre radius,” he said.
“This stuff was often sold door to door and so someone would see it getting installed in their neighbour’s house and they would have it done too.”
The going rate to have a house insulated in the mid-60s was between $50-$60.
In addition to door to door sales loose-fill asbestos was sold in bags at local hardware stores.
The Herald revealed on Tuesday that the state government had expanded its Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce to the Hunter following the first confirmed case of loose -fill asbestos in the region at Glendale.
Jaye Hesse found the material in the roof cavity of a 1970s extension to a 1950s-era weatherboard house.
Mr Hesse and his family have since had to abandon the house with the majority of their belongings still inside
The state government will now acquire the property, have it demolished and remediate the site.
READ MORE: Hunter asbestos deaths increase
Mr Tighe said the drastic course of action was needed because the highly mobile nature of the asbestos fibres.
“This stuff is particularly dangerous because it is 90 per cent amorsite (also known as brown asbestos),” he said.
“Because it is raw asbestos it migrates down into the wall cavities. Any movement at all will cause it to spread. That’s why you have to demolish the house.”
Loose-fill asbestos insulation was used in at least 1000 homes in the ACT and an unknown number in NSW.
More than 65,000 properties have been tested in NSW since 2014 with 149 positive results.
But to date, the Hunter had been untested as existing knowledge suggested loose-fill asbestos insulation was not used in the region.
Residents of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock, Maitland and Port Stephens who live in homes built before 1980 will have the next 30 days to register for the free test.
“The best thing to do is put on V2 category mask and lift the man hole in your roof. If you think it might be there get it checked. It’s better to be safe,” Mr Tighe said.
For more information and to register for testingvisit www.loosefillasbestos.nsw.gov.au or Sevice NSW on 1300 784 379.