DIY water blasting contaminates homes with asbestos

DIYers are being warned about the potential for accidentally contaminating their own home and gardens during home maintenance over summer.

Regional leader compliance delivery, James Tricker, said there have been four recent cases where people have water blasted their roofs and released asbestos fibres into the air.

"They’ve had to spend tens of thousands of dollars cleaning up to make their homes safe again,” he said.

“The high pressure can cause the asbestos-containing material (ACM) to break-up into airborne fibres. People may breathe them in or they settle in places where they can be easily disturbed again.”

If you are planning work in your home, it might be a good time to consider the presence of asbestos and get a professional assessment.

How do I know if my home has asbestos?

Asbestos-containing materials were a common building product from the 1940s to the early 2000s.

These can be found in a variety of places in people's homes, including cement products (pipes, flues, roofs), wall cladding, water tanks, lagging, plaster, vinyl floor rules and textured decorative coatings.

If products containing asbestos are in good condition any health risks are generally considered to be very low.

The impacts of asbestos

Asbestos fibres on garden plants

Asbestos fibres on garden plants

Asbestos creates a health risk only if it is disturbed or broken up and fibres are released into the air.

All types of asbestos fibres are known to cause serious health hazards in humans. There are several diseases that can be related to breathing in asbestos fibres, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and pleural plaques.

Asbestos-related diseases generally occur in workers who have had heavy exposure over extended periods of time. Short-term high exposure can happen during home renovation or maintenance involving materials which contain asbestos.

"Water blasting is one of the worst ways to create exposure risks by releasing the fibres from the products."

If a DIYer or any contractor do not plan their work carefully and take appropriate precautions, it may spread contamination. Asbestos fibres can settle on carpets, drapes, soft furnishings, and become airborne later. It can also contaminate the soil in your property.

It is important that asbestos-containing material (ACM) is appropriately handled and correctly disposed of.

Take precautions to protect you and your family

Super Six Roofing containing asbestos (BRANZ)

Super Six Roofing containing asbestos (BRANZ)

Tricker said that spending a little bit of money to get in a professional to check whether or not you have asbestos-containing materials on your property is worth it.

"You’re talking spending roughly $100 for a test versus potentially tens-of-thousands to clean it up properly to make your home safe.

"Because of the risk to health, the Ministry of Health recommends that you use a WorkSafe New Zealand licensed asbestos removalist to remove any substantial quantity of asbestos."

Who to contact?

  • Worksafe NZ’s website provides a comprehensive guide for identifying, working with, and disposing of asbestos. It also covers licensing and information for homeowners and landlords.
  • Community & Public Health's website also has advice on the effective management of hazardous substances. 
  • For more information on the risks to human health associated with asbestos, visit the Ministry of Health website.
  • Anyone concerned about potential asbestos exposure should phone their usual doctor's practice.