The home has been vacant since November 2011 when its owners discovered a substance they thought to be asbestos. They called in a licensed assessor who confirmed it was. The house was then sealed off and fenced. Air monitoring since the discovery has found no asbestos fibres within or outside the home. The homeowners left immediately after the asbestos was confirmed and negotiated to sell the house and land to the ACT government at market value, according to a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Simon Corbell. The ACT government sent notices to local residents on Monday to tell them the house would be removed. Mr McCabe suggested the 18-month time frame between the discovery of asbestos and its removal was due to negotiations with the owners and the need to formulate a strategy for remediation. ”It’s a quite lengthy and complicated process as obviously we can’t just bulldoze it,” he said. Mr Corbell’s spokeswoman said, ”While it is unfortunate that homes were missed, it is important to note that neither the ACT nor Commonwealth Government gave any assurances that all homes containing Mr Fluffy would be identified during the program.” Another in a series of internal reviews of the removal program has begun. Mr Corbell’s spokeswoman said that in the 2010 ACT government review of its asbestos management strategy, a series of recommendations had been made, including to review the information available to owners of homes that were in the removal program. However, the Downer house had not been identified as a result of a review. The home is the fourth found to have missed the official screening process which began in the late ’80s to identify all houses containing Mr Fluffy insulation. These include a house in Mawson, identified in 2009, a house in Lyons identified in 2007 and a house in Yarralumla identified in 1996. Mr McCabe said screening processes at the time lacked the stringency and sense of urgency of current asbestos handling. ”Typically, screening back then consisted of a visual inspection when an inspector lifted roof tiles. In this case, and in the case of the three other houses coming to light over the past 20 years, it was missed.” Since 2004, all residential sales in the territory must include a lease conveyance report advising buyers whether the house contains loose-fill asbestos. The Downer home had been found to have the roof insulation still in place, as well as asbestos fibres at the base of the wall cavities which had migrated from the roof. Mr McCabe warned that houses which had been part of the removal program may still have residual asbestos fibres in places such as wall cavities and caution needed to be exercised for even minor repairs or renovations in these homes.
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After the material is removed and isolated, it is sealed in bags. It is then disposed of at a designated landfill. Removal protocols may vary depending on the type of asbestos and in what area it is located. For example, the process for removing wall siding contaminated with asbestos would be different from removing floor tiles that are contaminated. In each case, the asbestos would need to be kept wet so that any possibility of it becoming airborne is low. The material is sealed in bags and prepared for transport to a designated disposal site. HEALTH IMPACT/SAFETY General: Asbestos fibers may enter the body through skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Most of the research on adverse health effects from asbestos pertains to the effects due to inhalation of the fibers. The concentrations of fibers inhaled were in amounts that overcame normal pulmonary defense and clearance mechanisms. Asbestos is one of the most common occupational carcinogens, causing about half of the deaths from cancer due to workplace exposure. Asbestos workers who also smoke have been shown to be at a much higher risk of disease than those who do not smoke. Lung diseases associated with asbestos exposure include pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural plaques, benign pleural effusion, and malignant mesothelioma. Tumors may develop even after relatively short exposures to asbestos, with the risk increasing greatly after five years of occupational exposure. Complications of asbestos exposure : Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a disease similar to pulmonary fibrosis. It results in the widespread formation of scar tissue in the lungs after asbestos fibers are inhaled into the air sacs. The body cannot get rid of the fibers. As the body tries to respond to the infiltration, scarring results in the lung tissue. This is a chronic inflammatory condition that is widely seen in patients involved in mining occupations. People with asbestosis usually exhibit severe shortness of breath (dyspnea) and have an increased risk for cancer. Autoimmune dysfunction: Exposure to silicates, such as asbestos, has also been linked to the development of autoimmune dysfunction. Some malignancies from asbestos exposure may be considered a failure in the body’s immune system to fight tumor growth.
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