A FAMILY of five have been forced to sleep on a mattress after asbestos was discovered in their home during council repairs.
Diane Tomlinson, her partner Lenny Broster and their three children aged five, four and 18 months live on Milton Road, Wolverham and have been sleeping on a mattress downstairs because it is too dangerous for the children to sleep upstairs.
The council started to replace the family’s main bedroom ceiling on Monday, June 29.
Diane said: “They came to take down the ceiling and after they had started a piece of asbestos fell down from the loft and landed on the floor.
“It was taken away by the specialist company who confirmed when they collected it that it was asbestos. That happened again on Wednesday.”
Her partner Lenny Broster, 34, said: “I work in the building trade so I knew straight away that it was asbestos.
“At one point we heard the council worker tell the builders to leave because it was unsafe to work.
“However the council has been happy for us to stay living there while the work has carried on.”
An air test took place on Thursday, July 2, which came back safe.
But Ms Tomlinson, 32, is angry her family was left in the house while potentially lethal asbestos fibres were airborne.
She said: “I want to know why an air test wasn’t carried out as soon as the first piece of asbestos were found.
“When they did the test on the Thursday the windows had been open since Monday and they had cleaned up with an industrial cleaner so there was bound to be less fibres floating around in the air.
“We won’t know until 10 years time whether we have been affected.
“I feel the council has failed my children by not acting sooner.
“Three months ago the council came round and tested for asbestos and it came back clear – why wasn’t it picked up then?”
Mr Broster also claimed: “They have only tested for one type of asbestos, the cement-based type which is least harmful.
“They haven’t tested for the more dangerous one.
“The air might be safe now but what about Monday to Wednesday when the house was covered with dust?”
Council defends actions on treating asbestos following contracted repair work
A Cheshire West and Chester Council spokesman said: “While carrying out repairs to a bedroom ceiling, we uncovered a small amount of white asbestos in the roof space.
“We made the tenants aware of this and called in asbestos removal contractors to remove it and any other asbestos they might find.
“They discovered small undisturbed amounts in other areas of the roof space under the insulation and safely removed them too.
“The contractors also carried out air tests which showed the air was not contaminated with asbestos.
“Between discovering the asbestos and arranging for it to be removed the bedroom was sealed off. The council is satisfied we kept the tenants informed of our actions throughout the works.
“Under the tenancy agreement there are procedures for requesting temporary rehousing.
“We had no formal request for rehousing during the course of these works.
“The test carried out three months ago was a visual inspection.
“We could not detect small amounts of asbestos cement hidden under loft insulation that has been in place for more than 30 years unless we had systematically gone through the loft space and pulled up the insulation to look for it.”
In terms of the time taken to arrange the air test the council said: “We have to call in specialists to do this and this has to be arranged, we arrange for it to be tested as soon as is practicable.”
A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said: “Asbestos is dangerous if disturbed, if it is not disturbed it is best to leave it where it is. The risk is lower if it is contained and sealed.
“If it is spread about through the air and inhaled then it becomes more dangerous.”
Exposure to asbestos can eventually lead to fatal diseases such as asbestosis or fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs, lung cancer mesothelioma, a cancer of the inner lining of the chest wall or abdominal cavity.