What You Should Know about Asbestos in a House
Asbestos was extensively used in home construction from the beginning of the 1940s until the late 1980s. Due to its fire resistance, durability and insulation properties, it was used widely in numerous buildings in Australia. People now have become aware of the health risks it poses, so the material is no longer mined or produced in Australia. It has also not been used in any Australian product or imported since the beginning of 2004.
Checking the age of the house is an initial step to find out whether your house contains asbestos-containing material (ACM). You can trace the presence of fibrous material by finding out when your home was built.
According to the general rule:
- Houses built before the mid-1980s are highly possible to contain ACMs.
- Houses built between the mid-1980s until the end of 1990s are likely to contain ACMs.
- Houses built after the 1990s are unlikely to contain asbestos.
These are ACM products that are commonly used in houses:
|Places you may find friable asbestos products in your house:
- Patterned paints, decorative ceiling coatings
- Backing material on vinyl flooring and floor tiles
- Low-density ACM fibre board
- Carpet underlay
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Spray-on soundproofing or insulation
- Rope door gaskets in wooden stove
- Pipe lagging
- Brick and plaster sealants, adhesive and filler products
- Fire or hail damaged or severely weathered AC materials
|Mostly ACM products used in houses were non-friable asbestos cement (AC) materials that include:
- Exterior and interior wall cladding
- Water or flue pipes
- Thermal boards around fireplaces
- Siding sheet
Where Fibrous Material Are Likely Found in a Typical House
- Bathroom, Laundry and Toilet – AC sheet walls, backing to wall tiles and ceilings and floor.
- Kitchen – splashbacks, walls, ceilings, backing of vinyl sheet flooring, in vinyl floor tiles, ceramic tiles underlay.
- Living areas – AC sheeting in walls, insulation in wood heaters, beneath wood-heater hearths and ceilings.
- Exterior – corrugated, flat, patterned roofing and wall sheeting, roof guttering, imitation brick cladding, ridge capping and lining under eaves.
- Backyard – garden sheds, fences, garages, carports, outside toilet and dog kennels.
- House goods – old ironing-board covers, backing of electrical meter boards, plaster sealants, filters and adhesive products and heatproof mats.
What is ACM?
To familiar yourself with ACM and its danger, here are some facts related to the ACM:
- Asbestos is a mineral that was made up of tiny fibres occurred naturally.
- It is categorised into groups:
- Serpentine group – consisting of only chrysotile (white asbestos)
- Amphibole group – consisting of crocidolite, amosite (brown and blue asbestos), anthophyllite, actinolite and tremolite.
- It is well-known for its unique properties, such as versatile and durable. It is also a good material for insulation.
- Its versatility and affordability made the material attractive to many industries and it is estimated to have more than 3000 applications worldwide.
- Up until the mid-1980s, one of the highest users per capita in the world was Australia.
- Nearly one-third of all houses constructed in Australia contain fibrous products.
- The products are commonly found especially in the internal and external wall cladding, eaves, fences, ceilings (especially in wet spots like bathrooms and laundries), and roofing.
- Reports show that within 1930 and 1983, proximately 1.5 million tonnes of all types of ACMs were imported into Australia.
- ACMs are categorised as non-friable and friable. The friable ACM is more likely to be airborne. The non-friable one is made from a mixture of asbestos and cement and is the type that is commonly found in the bathroom or kitchen.
- Both non-friable and friable poses a serious health risk to human and environment if the material containing hazardous fibrous is not maintained properly or removed carefully.
- The potential health risks present where there is:
- Asbestos in the surrounding environment,
- A weathering fibrous products,
- A presence of a damaged ACM,
- A maintenance and/or building work involving an ACM,
- A demolition and/or removal of fibrous material.
- When the material is disturbed, it can produce fibrous dust that poses a severe health risk if being inhaled.
- It can cause serious diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
- In December 2003, the full ban on any kind of fibrous products including the mining, manufacture, storage, import, use, re-use, transport, or sale of asbestos was officially implemented.
How to Identify a Fibrous Material in Houses
For an accurate and valid data, testing is the best method to confirm the presence of asbestos in housess. A visual inspection is also available to identify the material but it is not enough. Still, you will need to collect some samples of suspected materials and send them to a certified laboratory for analysis.
What if Asbestos is Identified in My Home?
In dealing with a fibrous material in the home, the method used will depend on the location of the findings, condition of the identified material, and the type of the asbestos (friable or non-friable).
- If the ACM is in good condition and is a friable type, then it may not be hazardous at the moment. Yet, the fibrous material needs to be continuously monitored for any sign of deterioration or severe damage.
- When the damage is only a minor one, you can choose to repair or isolate it rather than removing it. For example, if if is only a small tear in pipe insulation, you can repair it to fix the product.
- For AC sheeting, you can choose the encapsulation process. Apply painting or coating on the surface of the product to protect it from being disintegrated due to a weathering or deterioration process. However, if the damage on the AC sheeting was caused by a natural disaster like what happened to the caravan park in Sunshine Coast, removal is strongly recommended.
The only permanent solution for asbestos problem in homes is removal. It will involve the total removal of material containing dangerous fibres. The old product then will be replaced with the non-ACM one. For the removal work, you need to hire a qualified licensed professional because if the process is not performed properly, it poses a high risk of fibre release.
Wether it is a repair or removal, it is important for you to engage a competent professional who has a licence and certification for the removal. Make sure that the person you intend to hire is trusted and competent to remove asbestos safely and in accordance with the government regulations.