Did you know that approximately one third of homes built in Australia contain asbestos product? And, if your house was built before the mid-1980s it is highly likely that it would have some asbestos containing materials?
Asbestos is the generic term for a number of fibrous silicate minerals. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was commonly used in building materials because of its ability to withstand heat, erosion and decay and it has fire and water resistant properties too.
The good news is that asbestos is no longer used in Australian homes, with it being banned in 2003 and it is now illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use asbestos products.
What are the health impacts?
The health risks associated with working in the asbestos industry and being exposed to asbestos products through occupational, environmental and secondhand factors are now well known and documented and include Cancer; Mesothelioma, Asbestosis and other related serious conditions.
It is strongly recommended before starting to undertake any type of renovation on a house built before the late 1980s that absolute caution be observed as it can potentially have asbestos containing materials like fibro, and exposure to broken asbestos by breathing in asbestos fibers which are toxic can be serious especially for anyone who smokes and young children.
When renovating – where would I find asbestos in a house?
You won’t know if a building contains asbestos just by looking at it; it needs to be tested. If you do your due diligence and get a building inspection report done on a property you want to buy, it should discover any asbestos, but it’s worth checking with the property inspector you use to make sure they can specifically test for asbestos.
The vast majority of asbestos-containing products used in houses were bonded asbestos cement materials, including:
- shingles and siding (villaboard and similar)
- exterior and interior wall cladding
- thermal boards around fireplaces
- water or flue pipes.
f you suspect there could be asbestos materials; the only way to be certain is to have a sample of the material analysed by a laboratory. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE IT OR BREAK IT UP, call in an expert first and contact NATA – The National Association of Testing Authorities for an analytical laboratory in your area that is accredited to identify asbestos, visit NATA website: www.nata.asn.au
Confirmation should be carried out before any general maintenance, renovation or demolition activities proceed.