Asbestos roof sheeting with visible fibres. Photograph: Bill Bradley.

Council officers are warning that asbestos is present in two thirds of council properties, with residents being urged to get in touch with the Town Hall before they do work on their own homes.

Head of resident safety Donna Bryce’s comments came as she updated councillors on the Town Hall’s continuing work in managing and raising awareness of the dangerous material.

It is understood that the amount of properties with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) is normal for a housing stock of the age of Hackney’s.

The council is working on the development of an online portal where residents will be able to access surveys and management plans, and has implemented training in asbestos management to all staff in order that residents’ inquiries can be dealt with without reference to management.

Bryce said: “Giving information to residents is key. We’ve just appointed a new asbestos manager who is going to be responsible for all the asbestos in the housing stock.

“We’re hoping to get a resident portal so that residents can just log in and see their property, their fire safety, their asbestos report, all on the internet.

“Key for us is making sure that residents don’t always have to ring us up, they can go straight on to a database and get the information for themselves.

“We’ve got so many houses, so we’re saying to tenants, if you are going to do any works, give us a ring and we can tell you where your asbestos is, if it’s there.”

Building materials containing asbestos were widely used until the 1980s before being finally banned in 1999.

According to council documents, there has been a reduction in the number of reports of disturbed or damaged asbestos coupled with a “large increase” in the number of reports of the material’s suspected presence.

This is as a result of the council’s new team of operatives and information campaign, according to Town Hall documents.

The danger to health from undisturbed asbestos is currently thought to be minimal, with the sanding or drilling of products containing the construction material having the potential to release its harmful fibres into the air.

The council would leave ACMs in place if they were found to be in good condition, with it only being necessary to remove it if it were likely to be disturbed, or if a repair, improvement or alteration takes place on or near it.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, a serious long-term scarring of the lungs, an incurable condition which increases the risks of lung cancer.

The material can be found in many places in the home, including boiler insulation, textured wall and ceiling coatings, or panels behind radiators.

Cllr Sharon Patrick (Lab, Kings Park) said: “As someone who was a tenant and is now a leaseholder, existing tenants don’t always know where the asbestos is in their properties.

“It’s great we’re training our operatives, but I’m sure there will be many occasions where tenants are drilling through asbestos, because they don’t know where it is.

“We need to make sure that tenants, residents and freeholders know where it is in their property.

“I would hate for anybody to get ill by drilling through it and not knowing.

“Most people aren’t thinking about it if they’re doing things to their properties to make it a bit better.”

If you’re concerned about asbestos in your home, more information on Hackney Council’s services can be found here.

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