Why have I not been asked to leave my home?

The recent Ponsonby Intermediate School fire burned some roofing material which contained asbestos fibres. The wind blew debris from the fire onto some neighbouring properties; nine of these properties close to the fire have been identified as requiring remediation. As noted in the accompanying letter, your property is further from the school and is not considered to be at risk.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the term for a group of silicate mineral fibres. Asbestos fibres were previously used in building construction, particularly to make ceilings, roofs and wall claddings. Asbestos fibres are no long used in buildings, because it is considered to be unsafe.

Why is asbestos unsafe?

Asbestos is unsafe because it can be a health risk. Breathing in asbestos in significant quantities can cause scarring and damage to the lungs, and possibly cancer.

Will I become sick?

Diseases caused by asbestos take many years (often decades) to develop. Your risk of becoming sick from this asbestos is very low, especially as your property has not been identified as needing remediation. If you or your family are concerned or feel unwell for any other reason, you should contact your local GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116 (a 24/7 service with interpreters available).

Even though my property does not need specialist cleaning, is there anything I should be doing?

As per our letter of December 9, households downwind of the fire should clean away any residue from the smoke and dust by doing the following:

  • Wearing a disposable mask (over nose and mouth) and gloves when cleaning up
  • Damping down horizontal surfaces with a hose
  • Wiping internal windowsills with a damp cloth
  • Wiping carpets, if affected, with a damp cloth instead of vacuuming
  • Disposing of any cleaning cloths/materials used in a sealed plastic bag, and then in another sealed plastic bag, for disposal with other household waste.
  • Washing your hands and any dusty clothes thoroughly afterwards
  • Rewashing any clothes that smell of smoke from being on an outside clothes line
  • Leaving footwear outside of your home
  • Bagging and binning the clippings from the first lawn-mow after the fire, if you have grass at your property.

What should I do if I come across debris that I’m worried about on my property?

If you find debris on your property and have concerns, call Auckland Council on 09 301 0101.  

Should I be worried about asbestos in any building materials used in my home?

Undisturbed asbestos-containing materials are not a health hazard on their own. Potential health problems only occur if the building material is disturbed, for example sawed or drilled, because this disturbance can release asbestos fibres.

If you are concerned that asbestos-containing materials might have been used to build your home, you can contact the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) on 09 623 4600 for advice. ARPHS health protection officers can provide advice on whether asbestos is likely to be present in your home, and tell you how to get it tested if necessary. You should not attempt to undertake DIY work with asbestos, and should instead seek professional help. WorkSafe has a list of companies that hold Asbestos Licences here.

Where can I get more information about asbestos?

Last updated 17.2.2021

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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