According to Metro Asbestos Roof Restoration , the NSW Ombudsman's appeal for a national asbestos removal program may be unrealistic in the short term but the issue needs to be addressed affordably.
Peter O'Connell, Managing Director of Metro Asbestos Roof Restoration says that the subject of asbestos removal is often wrongly considered to be too difficult.
Metro Asbestos Roof Restoration assesses hundreds of buildings for asbestos each year and agrees with the ombudsman's findings that action to deal with the health threats posed to Australians has largely stalled.
Mr O'Connell believes that the problem is so big that wholesale removal is not feasible in the short term and alternatives must be considered. He also says that government agencies aren't properly resourced to enforce compliance.
Industrial chemist and former James Hardie researcher, Vidas Ridikas recently reviewed 465 asbestos audits of buildings in the Sydney metropolitan area.
Of the 90 roofs clad with corrugated asbestos cement sheets, 86 were in an advanced state of natural weathering and had become asbestos hazards. The remaining four roofs were in a stable condition because they had been encapsulated.
Mr Ridikas reports that natural weathering processes have resulted in the dissolution and erosion of the cement based matrix, exposing unbonded asbestos fibres on the upper surface of the corrugated roof sheets.
In addition to the loose fibres on the surface of the sheets, fibres washed from the roof in rainy weather were observed to accumulate in bundles on the edge of the sheets in the valleys of the corrugates.
Mr Ridikas adds that gutters were also contaminated with asbestos fibre. Overflowing gutters or damaged and disconnected downpipes spill rainwater onto the ground and may contaminate the soil with asbestos fibre.
Mr O'Connell believes the scale of the asbestos problem may be the root cause of inaction.
Metro Asbestos Roof Restoration regularly presents its services to thousands of visitors at Melbourne's annual Safety In Action trade show.
He says visitors are relieved when they learn that they can generally stabilise asbestos with coatings because the alternative solution comprising of asbestos removal and roof replacement is hard to fund.
Encapsulation of asbestos roofs to provide protection economically until roof removal and replacement can take place is expected to be a viable solution.
Another problem, according to Mr O'Connell is the absence of information on the extent of the asbestos roof problem. He feels a simple extension of the Asbestos Register scheme would provide this vital information.
He concludes by saying that maintaining central records of asbestos registers would go a long way to prevent more exposure to asbestos.
Metro Asbestos Roof Restoration will offer advice and asbestos management services at Safety In Action from April 5 to 7, 2011 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.