Until the mid-1980s, asbestos was widely used in a range of home building materials. If your house was built or renovated before 1987, it is likely you have asbestos in your home. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous silicate mineral. It was considered a versatile product, because it is able to withstand heat, erosion and decay and has fire and water resistant properties.
Homeowners need to know what asbestos is and what precautions you must take if you are planning to renovate or make repairs around your home, just in case you are dealing with asbestos.
Removing asbestos is a dangerous and complicated process best carried out by professionals who are licenced having completed the required training. If you were to consider removing a small amount of asbestos yourself, at the very minimum you would need to meticulously follow ALL of the steps described on this site in order to protect your health and that of those around you.
It becomes a health risk when asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is described as either "bonded" or "friable".
Bonded asbestos fibres are mixed into another material which binds or bonds them within the material. Bonded asbestos cannot be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry.
Common uses for bonded asbestos in buildings include: flat (fibro), corrugated (roofing) or compressed asbestos cement sheets; water, drainage and flue pipes; and floor tiles.
If fire, hail, or direct activities such as water blasting and drilling damages bonded asbestos, it may become friable asbestos material.
Friable asbestos material is any material that contains asbestos and is in the form of a powder or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry.
Friable asbestos was not commonly used in the home; it was mainly used in industrial applications such as pipe lagging, sprayed limpet and asbestos cloth and rope.
Friable asbestos can only be removed by a licenced waste transporter.
It is Important Everyone Knows About Asbestos Health Risks and Safety Requirements
While some people may ensure they follow the regulations and safety requirements to remove small amounts of asbestos themselves, we recommend retaining a licenced asbestos removal professional who is equipped to protect you and your family from the dangers of asbestos dust.
- When working in and around the home or renovating, if in doubt, assume you are dealing with asbestos and take every precaution.
- The safest way to manage the removal of asbestos is to hire a licenced asbestos removal contractor.
- Where asbestos fibres are friable (loose and not bonded into building materials), only licenced friable asbestos removalists are allowed to remove it.
- If you do need to work with any material that may contain asbestos, ensure you take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself and minimise the release of dust or small particles from the asbestos materials that may affect others including children.
Why Can Asbestos Dust or Fibres be Dangerous to Your Health?
- There is NO safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres!
- You must observe safety precautions when removing or working with asbestos, otherwise you risk exposing yourself and your family to long-term health risks.
- If asbestos is disturbed it can release dangerous fine particles of dust containing asbestos fibres.
- Breathing in dust containing asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
- Mesothelioma is a cancer which most often occurs in the lining of the lung. There is no cure.
- The rates of malignant mesothelioma (an incurable cancer) are expected to rise from 2012 to 2020.
- The risk of contracting asbestos related diseases increases with the number of fibres inhaled and the length of time that you inhaled asbestos fibres (number of years exposed).
- The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibres is greatly increased if you smoke.
- Symptoms of asbestos dust related diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
- The average time between exposure and developing mesothelioma is about 45 years.
The Importance of Safely Managing Asbestos in and Around the Home
- Most people can't tell whether building materials contain asbestos just by looking at them.
- Unless you take the required safety precautions and follow regulations, Dont cut it! Dont drill it! Dont drop it! Dont sand it! Dont saw it! Dont scrape it! Dont scrub it! Dont dismantle it! Dont tip it! Dont waterblast it! Dont demolish it! And whatever you do... Dont dump it!
- If you do need to work with any material that may contain asbestos, always work so there is minimal dust or small particles released from the asbestos materials.
- Only scientific testing of a sample of material by an accredited National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) asbestos testing laboratory can confirm the presence of asbestos. For information on testing and accredited laboratories in your area, visit www.nata.com.au or call 1800 621 666.
- Asbestos materials that are in good condition are unlikely to release asbestos fibres if left undisturbed.
- If asbestos materials are in good condition, paint them and leave them alone.