What You Need to Know about Asbestos

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14/05/2015

Brief history on the early usage and ultimate demise of Asbestos

The word asbestos is synonymous with illness. We constantly hear stories in media of people working or living in asbestos buildings being diagnosed with cancer. It’s hard to imagine why building with this product was ever a good idea, but at one time it was.

Why was asbestos used?

Asbestos is a generic name given to a group of mineral fibres that are found in rock formations. The term ‘asbestos’ derives from the Greek word for inextinguishable. This is because it is highly fire resistant. It is also a strong and durable.

It was used widely in home construction after World War 2 because it was such a cheap material. By 2003, we were well aware of the effects of asbestos on human health, and as a result completely banned all products containing it throughout Australia.

Health risks

When asbestos fibres are properly contained there is no significant health risks. It is only when those fibres are disturbed and released into the air that they become dangerous. Breathing in asbestos fibres (especially at high levels) increases your risk of certain types of lung cancers.

The reasons that asbestos might be released in the air is if any sort of work on the building is being done or the original product has deteriorated over time or from wear. So if you think you think have asbestos in your home or business, it’s best to get it checked and removed to protect your family and employees from harm.

Check out the Asbestos Awareness campaign for more information for home owners.

Am I at risk?

If your home was built after 2003, then you’re in the clear as it became illegal to import, store, sell, install, use, reuse or supply this product. However, this ban does not apply to houses that already contain asbestos.

Asbestos was last used as a domestic construction material in the 1980s, being replaced by cellulose fibres. So if you home is relatively modern, you are safe.

If your home was built or renovated before 1990, then it could contain asbestos products. Here are some of the locations where it might exist.

  • Roof tiles
  • Water pipes
  • Vinyl floors
  • Imitation brick or weatherboard cladding
  • Ceiling and walls

How do I know?

It is very hard to identity an asbestos product by just looking at them. The only way you can be sure is to have a sample of the material analysed in a laboratory. This does come at some expense and should only be done by an accredited organisation.

This is especially important to do if you are planning any renovation, maintenance or demolish work, as this is when asbestos is likely to be released into the air.

If you discover that you have asbestos and want to have it removed, do not under any circumstances attempt to remove it yourself. The fibres become easily airborne and become highly dangerous, which is why it should only be removed by a licensed asbestos removalist.

We hope this blog has been informative about asbestos and the potential health ramifications.