Alberta Health Services is warning homeowners in flood-affected areas to be cautious during the cleanup and to make sure that they handle and dispose of asbestos properly.

The AHS says houses built before the mid-1980s may contain asbestos materials in drywall mud, ceiling tiles, insulation and floor tiles.

Homeowners should contact an environmental consultant to assess the property for asbestos and then hire a qualified contractor to remove it.

The AHS says hiring professionals is the best method as the contractors wear specialized personal protective equipment and have expert knowledge and techniques to avoid exposure.

For those people who decide to remove flood-damaged materials on their own they should be sure to take actions to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure.

Health officials say the risks are greatest when asbestos particles are inhaled so people should avoid breaking materials that may contain it.

They also recommend that people avoid using power tools or any abrasive materials, like sanders, on items that may contain asbestos.

Homeowners should keep materials wet as dry materials are more likely to emit particles into the air and people should also bag the materials in a thick plastic bag and ensure the bag is sealed.

Those who are worried that they may have already disturbed asbestos during the cleanup, can reduce the risk by immediately wetting materials and carefully placing them into sealed plastic bags.

Also clean all home surfaces by wet-wiping with a cloth or using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

The AHS says that personal protective equipment does not completely protect against asbestos, but it may lessen the risk of exposure.

Gear like an N95 respirator mask, rubber gloves and coveralls can help and most are available at the local hardware store.

Health officials also suggest homeowners change into clean clothing when leaving the flood-affected property or area, to bag soiled clothing until it can be washed, and shower as soon as possible.

The AHS says that many older homes may have been renovated in the past few years and any new materials are not likely to contain asbestos.