The West Australian Department of Health has reassured the public that old carpet underlay was extremely unlikely to contain asbestos.
The move comes in response to an article in The West Australian newspaper on March 24, claiming that hessian bags, previously used to transport asbestos from Wittenoom to Perth, were recycled for use as carpet underlay.
Director of Environmental Health Mr Jim Dodds said the department had investigated the claims, made by the Asbestos Disease Society, after receiving a number of calls from the public and the carpet industry.
“Our investigation has found that the majority of bags that were recycled to make carpet underlay had been used to transport wheat and wool,” he said.
“It is believed that only one in 25-30 bags used to transport asbestos were recycled.
“It is likely that most of the asbestos fibres would have been removed from the bags during the cleaning and processing stage.
“We have also had samples of old carpet and underlay tested by a National Association of Testing Authority (NATA) which confirmed there were no asbestos fibres present.”
Mr Dodds said while the Department’s investigation had concluded that the possibility of asbestos fibres being in carpet underlay was very low, the people most at risk would have been those who worked in the bag recycling industry.
“As the removal of old carpet does generate dust and possible allergens that may aggravate or trigger asthmatic conditions, it is recommended people wear a class P1 or P2 disposable dust mask when removing old carpet,” he said.
Mr Dodds emphasised that the only way to confirm if asbestos was present in a product was to have a sample examined by a NATA accredited laboratory.
If a member of the public wishes to have carpet underlay tested, they should contact an accredited testing laboratory. If a member of the public wishes to have carpet underlay tested, they should contact an accredited testing laboratory.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD