Residents returning to properties damaged by floods and bushfires are being warned against stirring up deadly asbestos fibres as they sift through debris.

There are concerns asbestos fibres in homes damaged in the Warrumbungle fire near Coonabarabran in northwest NSW have already spread.

Initial assessments by Warrumbungle Shire at 36 properties found 31 sites contained asbestos, and the council's public works committee now working on an asbestos management plan.

Barry Robson, president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA), said residents returning to homes in areas affected by floods and bushfires needed to be careful and take precautions.

"People searching through the remains of their houses need to protect themselves and their families," he told AAP on Thursday.

"It's obviously very hard for them, as they sift through their houses looking for cherished possessions.

"They forget about the dangers of being exposed to asbestos fibres."

Mr Robson recommended people wear masks and disposable suits before handling any material.

He said a high proportion of buildings constructed before 1987 contained asbestos products, either in houses, sheds or water pipes.

While it was understandable many flood-affected families wanted to assess the damage to their home and begin the clean up, safety should come first, he said.

"When people start using high-pressure water blasters to clean away the mud, they should be mindful of whether their house is asbestos or fibro.

"They should not disturb the surface of the fibro, which can release asbestos fibres."

Fibro can be dangerous even after sheeting has dried, Mr Robson said.

He predicted future natural disasters would continue to trigger the risk of asbestos fibre release.

"It's not an easy fix - the danger will stay in Australia for the next 100 years."

 

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