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Victorians are urged to seek expert advice when removing old heaters because many were installed surrounded by asbestos which is dangerous when disturbed or damaged.

The Victorian government has announced it will help about 250,000 low income households replace old heaters as part of its household energy efficiency program.

Maurice Blackburn Dust Diseases lawyer, Colleen Bolger said it’s important that people are extremely cautious if they’re thinking about removing the heaters themselves.

“While asbestos has been banned in Australia for a number of years now, it remains in many houses built or renovated before 1990,” Bolger said.

“As we mark Asbestos Awareness Week, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that even slight exposure to asbestos fibres and dust can result in deadly lung diseases for some people and there is no way of predicting who will fall ill.

“Maurice Blackburn has clients who developed mesothelioma relatively early in adult life because they were exposed as children to asbestos while their parents were renovating,” Bolger said.

“We all have to be vigilant when doing work to our homes, whether that’s for a small emergency repair or a renovation.

“The phenomenal heat and fire-resistant properties of asbestos means that it was common practice to line the areas behind heaters with asbestos cement sheeting to protect the home from damage,” Bolger said.

“When these old heaters are removed, the asbestos sheeting will be disturbed and that is when there is the greatest risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

“It’s important to get a professional to test a sample of the area around the heater to confirm if asbestos is present and then have it removed by experts,” Bolger said.

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