Asbestos is a mineral fibre that was used to build Australian homes until the mid 1980s. At the time of use, the product was considered to be extremely versatile, as its tensile strength was high, along with its flexibility and insulation properties. It wasn’t until the 1970s that concern about the health implications of asbestos use became a major issue. Gradually, use of the product was phased out as the number of asbestos-related tragedies grew. By 2013, the banning of asbestos use came into force in Australia.
What are the health precautions from asbestos?
Inhalation of asbestos fibres, which are present in the air, when working with the material results in illness. However, if asbestos is intact and not crumbly, then it does not pose a risk. It is only when the product is removed, handled or broken up that the fibres are a problem.
What are the dangers of asbestos?
The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 125 million people globally work and live in asbestos-filled buildings. In 2004, more than 100,000 people died from an asbestos relation illness.
If asbestos is present in your home and is not likely to be disturbed or it is in good condition, then it does not pose a health risk. However, if the asbestos is in bad shape, or you plan to renovate your home, then it’s highly recommended that you remove the material using a renovation specialist.
What does asbestos look like?
Asbestos has been used to make a range of products, so it can be difficult to identify. Some of the most common uses of asbestos in the home include:
- Roofing – sheets and capping, as well as guttering
- Under the roof – gables and eaves, water pipes and flues
- Walls – external weatherboard and internal walling
- Flooring – tiles, vinyl sheeting, carpet and tile underlay
- Building construction – building boards, imitation brick cladding, fencing, carports and shed, as well as window putty, under beam packing and concrete framework
You cannot identify asbestos by simply looking at a product, due to it being used to manufacture over 3,000 different items. Many of these items are found inside and outside the home and are in kitchens and bathrooms. Therefore, if you suspect that asbestos is present in your home, you will need to engage the services of an experienced asbestos assessor who will have the material tested. Engage with your local renovation specialist to find the most suitable assessor for your home.
Are you able to deal with the removal of asbestos yourself?
Laws regarding the removal of asbestos vary in Australian states and territories. Most will require a licensed asbestos removalist to extract and dispose of the product. Failure to do this may result in a hefty fine.
What are the best steps to take when dealing with asbestos?
If you have a home built before the 1990s, and you plan to renovate, then contact your local renovation specialist and ask about the local council asbestos protocol. The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, which is a government initiative (https://www.asbestossafety.gov.au/organisation-links on a new window), have a resource that you may also find useful.
How long will it take to remove asbestos?
The time taken to remove asbestos depends on the type of product that the material has been used in and where this is situated in your home. If you have asbestos throughout your home, then it may take considerable time to remove.
For more home renovation advice, read our helpful home renovation articles.
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.