If you live in a house built before 1980, there’s a possibility it was constructed with asbestos. Approximately one-third of Australian homes contain asbestos in some form or another. Sounds dangerous, right? But what exactly is this material?
Whether you’re worried that your home might have asbestos or just want to learn more about it, this guide will help you understand why it is harmful and what you can do if found in your home.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural mineral found in rocks and soil. It is composed of soft and flexible fibres that are immune to electricity, heat, chemicals, and corrosion. That’s why it worked well for manufacturers, even though it is highly toxic. It was widely used for years to make construction materials, automotive parts, and even textiles. Being an effective insulator, asbestos can also be used in cloth, paper, cement, plastic, and other materials to make them stronger.
Today, Asbestos mines are no longer in operation since the hazards of its exposure became widely recognised. The production gradually decreased after reaching its peak in the 1970s.
Why is it harmful?
Asbestos is harmful if the material has been damaged over time. Asbestos that crumbles quickly or has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder is likely to release asbestos fibres and create a health hazard. When these particles are inhaled or ingested by humans, mineral fibres can become permanently trapped in the body.
These trapped asbestos fibres can cause inflammation, scarring, and eventually genetic damage over the years. It can also cause rare and threatening cancer called mesothelioma, lung diseases, and other cancer forms.
Where in homes is it normally found?
Asbestos was one of the basic construction materials used for many houses and buildings in the 1980s because it was considered long-lasting and inexpensive. It can be found in different housing materials, including cement, roof shingles, steam pipes, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, textured paint, and insulation. Asbestos can also be found on basement boilers and pipes, HVAC duct insulation, plaster, caulking, and blown-in attic insulation.
How do I find out if I have asbestos?
It’s quite challenging to be sure if your house may have asbestos, but if your home was constructed between the 1940s and 1980s, there’s a higher probability that your home’s materials contain asbestos. Uninsulated pipes with white or grey insulation remnants on the fittings are common signs, and an outline of flooring tiles in nine-inch square patterns, a standard tile size containing asbestos.
Still, these aren’t reliable. If you want to be sure that your home is free from this hazardous chemical, it’s best to hire a professional to inspect your house. Since asbestos can only be identified using a specialised microscope, the inspector will take small samples from your materials and test them in a laboratory for analysis.
When should I have an inspection?
Before doing any repairs or renovation on your house, it is crucial to obtain an asbestos audit to identify if you have asbestos that needs to be managed or removed. You need to do the same if buying a an old property. In some cases, it is recommended to undertake a pre-renovation or pre-demolition survey as a government requirement. It is essential to check with the work health and safety regulator in your state or territory to determine what requirements apply.
Who can do an inspection?
All asbestos inspections must be done by a licensed asbestos assessor or persons who have undertaken a recognised training course in asbestos identification. The person must be trained and experienced in taking asbestos samples and in identifying asbestos. The assessor must know the risk and the action that should be taken, and be familiar with building and construction methods to recognise where asbestos is likely to be located.
What can I do about asbestos in my home?
If you find something in your home that you suspect is asbestos, don’t touch it. Even if the asbestos-containing material is in good condition, the best option is to leave it alone. If the material is more than slightly damaged or could be disturbed, contact a trained and accredited asbestos professional.
The repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. It’s essential to limit access to the area until a professional can confirm the presence of asbestos. Improper removal may increase your and your family’s exposure to asbestos fibres.
Asbestos Testing with Inspect My Home
Asbestos fibers can severely harm your health. If you are exposed, you will be at risk of getting an asbestos-related illness. You need to take immediate action if you suspect asbestos in your home.
One of the largest and most trusted building and pest inspection companies in Australia, Inspect My Home is committed to providing you with a professional and thorough property inspection. We have professional inspectors who carry out Asbestos Testing across Queensland and New South Wales, and provide you with an accurate audit report. If the presence of asbestos in your home is confirmed, we will provide an asbestos management plan to help you.