Readers may know that we have a bit of penchant for home improvement and DIY at the Tammy household. Well I do, Mr Tammy less so but he put’s up with it. I love dressing and styling a room, or better yet knocking down a wall and starting that room again. I have grand plans for our kitchen/diner/living area in the pipeline which will really allow the interior designer in me to break free. However as much fun as it is there is a hidden risk that so many of us are unaware of.
Last year, last Christmas in fact, my mum’s living room caved in – there was flood from a bathroom upstairs that seeped through the floor to the ceiling of the living room, which ended up on the living room floor. It was a nightmare to say the least. It didn’t however end there. After lots of back and forth with the house insurance work was finally undertaken to put the room back together. What none of us were expecting however was to see a team turn up in their Hazmat suits – it felt very Jack Bauer esk.
We were totally unaware that lurking in her ceiling, our family home for the last 30 odd years was asbestos! Being a lawyer who has dealt with many an asbestos related case I was all too aware of the risk that asbestos poses. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma a devastating cancer that starts in your lungs. What is especially cruel about it is it can take some 20 – 50 years for symptoms to become apparent, by which point is usually too late. It is commonly known for effecting trades man who were in the past unaware of the risks. Recent years have seen a surge in law suits against employers by employees who were made to work with asbestos unbeknownst to the risks.
Fortunately we do now know the risks but what a large portion of the population don’t know, including myself, is that asbestos could well be in your walls, loft, shed or garage, as it was in ours. If your house was built between 1930 – 1980 it is most likely to be at risk. The good news is it will not harm you whilst it remains covered, untouched and left alone. It is when we starting knocking those walls down and prodding about with it that we start to open ourselves up to its risk.
Prior to my mum’s ceiling falling down I would have been oblivious to the risks and carried out my DIY projects without a second thought, now however I am much more wary and astute to the potential risk of renovating my home. As such I have some useful things to share with you when embarking on a bit of home improvement.
- First and foremost, it is of course asbestos. Be particularly aware when removing or repairing sheds and garages, knocking down walls ceilings and lofts. If you are unsure, do not damage any surface area. You can have an asbestos survey carried out if you are unsure of any risks and only trained professionals should be removing asbestos from your home
- Mould – not the kind that makes your cheese blue. I am talking the black scary kind that we have probably all seen at some point in our home. Large untreated patches of mould can lead to respiratory problems. In my legal days I dealt with a case where tenants had brought an action due to the ill effects of mould that they had suffered. This can however be easily avoided a top tip to reduce your risk is using a mould removal kit to clean the mould, wear a mask and keep the room well ventilated.
- MDF – we all remember the MDF revolution and its use became common place in our homes. Attention should be given however to sawing, sanding, breaking and dismantling MDF, if for example you are up-scaling furniture. MDF resin contains harmful substances which again can lead to respiratory issues if inhaled. Again advice is to wear a mask, work in a well ventilated room and do not use your vacuum to clean up the dust.
None of the above is designed to scare or panic, simply to inform. I wish we had known of the likelihood of asbestos being in our family home when the first bit of ceiling fell. The living room ceiling was left damaged, exposed and untreated for weeks, if not months, opening the house up to all sorts of risks.
Sadly for lots of people raising awareness now is too late. The most important thing is to, of course, concentrate on their health and recovery. However the lawyer in me must point out that if you or someone you know has been exposed to or put at risk by asbestos you, or they, may be entitled to compensation. There are firms with specialist mesothelioma solicitors who may be able to help.
Do you know someone who has been effected by asbestos? Have you carried out home improvements unbeknownst to the risks? Or been unfortunate like my mother? I would love to hear from you.