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Some reasons for the historical popularity of asbestos as a common building material are its high resistance to heat and its durability. However, asbestos has adverse health effects, a significant reason Australia banned its use.

As such, you may want to know what building materials can replace asbestos. Read on to find out safe and practical alternatives to asbestos. This guide also contains information on the use of asbestos in building materials, asbestos products and asbestos exposure, and the diseases caused by exposure to asbestos.

In addition, you can learn what to do when a material contains asbestos and how to get information and help on asbestos testing, management, disposal, and replacement.

Use of Asbestos in Building Materials

From the 1950s to 1970s, asbestos was popularly used in shipbuilding, automotive, and construction industries. For example, familiar sources of asbestos include paper products and pipe coverings. Meanwhile, an example of asbestos in soil was the discovery of vermiculite in potting soil.

Asbestos Products and Asbestos Exposure

If your home was built before the 1990s, it is possible to have asbestos materials likely in machinery like brake pads or gaskets. Asbestos can also exist in tightly bound materials like flue pipes, roof shingles, and vinyl floor tiles.

Alternatively, it can be as loose asbestos fibres in specific ceiling insulation, hot water pipe insulation, and other asbestos insulation products. Using asbestos additives in building materials like cement poses serious health hazards. This is the case even when you enjoy the benefits of increased strength and lighter weight.

For instance, research shows that workers exposed to asbestos fibres in cement or cement-based products have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.  As a result, you need to take safety precautions if you are working on older buildings and construction sites.

It is easy to come across asbestos cement products used in the following:

  • Foundation and building support
  • Pressure pipes
  • Drainage products
  • Cement roofing
  • Cement flooring
  • Drainages, gutters, and downspouts

Heat Resistant Alternatives to Asbestos

There are numerous health and safety concerns regarding the use of asbestos. Thus, the emphasis is on finding alternatives that offer the same attractive properties as asbestos but are safer.

You can consider the following alternative products that can serve as substitute materials for asbestos:

Amorphous silica fabrics

Amorphous silica fabrics are suitable asbestos substitutes. You can use them for insulation and protection purposes. These fibres are resistant to extremely high temperatures and are not easily prone to rot or burns.

Consequently, they are helpful in areas such as shipyards and the aerospace industry. Still, amorphous silica fabrics contain fibreglass. This can make them unsafe for use in residential buildings.

Cellulose fibres

Cellulose fibres are a popular alternative to asbestos. This is due to the readily available raw materials for generating cellulose fibres. You only need to shred newsprint papers and use chemical treatments to dry the pieces out.

Another purpose of chemically treating fibres is to increase their resistance to fire. Cellulose fibres are considered a green insulation option with reduced energy costs. Moreover, they are generally regarded as safe for use in residential properties.

Polyurethane foams

Polyurethane foams are a standard asbestos replacement option. Polyurethane foam has trapped bubbles that help provide good thermal resistance. The spray product is used as a roofing material to provide insulation. In addition, it is used in car upholstery and floatation devices. It is applied in ventilation systems to regulate temperature changes.

Flour fillers

These are affordable insulating asbestos alternatives that are easy to generate. You only need resources that are available in nature. This makes them eco-friendly. Flour fillers are commonly used to fill cracks and crevices and help to provide building insulation.

Thermoset plastics flours

The liquid and powder combination of thermoset plastic flours provides a good blend of insulation and strength. You can even mould components such as wood flour and fillers to your preferred shape.

Thermoset plastics flours can help provide thermal, electrical, and sound insulation. Other uses include application as a replacement for asbestos in brake linings of cars and other machinery.

Risks of Asbestos Exposure

The history of asbestos use in commercial industries is a rich one. However, it has been found to contain hazardous materials such as carcinogens that can pose serious health risks. You should note that different types of asbestos have different configurations of asbestos fibres and associated health risks.

Asbestos can become friable and release asbestos fibres into the air. When people inhale these fibres, they can become trapped in the respiratory pathways, resulting in asbestos-related diseases.

In addition, disturbed building materials can release asbestos fibres. In turn, this affects indoor air quality and outdoor and indoor environments. Ultimately, exposure risks are increased when asbestos-containing materials are moved or become brittle. That is why you should always avoid being exposed to asbestos fibres.

Diseases caused by exposure to asbestos

Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres can be toxic and have serious health effects. Asbestos-related diseases include the following:

  • Asbestosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Cancer of the larynx
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Cancer of the large intestine
  • Pleural plaques and pleural effusion

What to Do When a Material Contains Asbestos

The best way to confirm if a building material contains asbestos is to test a sample in an accredited laboratory. However, if you suspect a material contains asbestos, you must maintain health and safety protocols before testing it.

This is especially important for asbestos in commercial buildings and domestic properties. For instance, you must take special precautions when drilling, sawing, renovating, or demolishing possible asbestos-containing materials. Above all, do not try to use power tools on such materials.

You should know that there are laws and regulations guiding the disposal of asbestos-containing materials. Inviting a licensed removalist for asbestos removal and disposal is always preferred. Remember to inform your neighbours about the activity.

Asbestos Management and Disposal Information

Sources for information on asbestos awareness, asbestos testing, and asbestos management include the following:

Compensation and Disease Treatment

Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases may not present until advanced stages. However, if you have developed asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma due to workplace asbestos exposure, you can get a mesothelioma lawyer to help you seek compensation.

Also, there are options for asbestos treatments, financial aid, and other mesothelioma resources that you can use.

Asbestos Removal and Replacement

If you are sure of the presence of asbestos products or building materials, it is preferable not to perform asbestos replacement yourself. While you may know some good alternatives to asbestos, you still need to avoid asbestos exposure.

Hiring an asbestos removal company to remove and replace asbestos will help you avoid the risk of asbestos exposure. Indeed, this includes being exposed to asbestos-related diseases.

Besides, a reliable asbestos removal company can develop the right asbestos management plan. This can even include recommendations to improve occupational hygiene and disaster recovery measures for asbestos release due to natural or artificial disasters.

You may also get help from asbestos removal companies when you need to do the following:

  • Work with asbestos cement products
  • Remove fibro cement or asbestos cement sheeting
  • Transport or dispose of asbestos-containing materials

Hire a Reliable Asbestos Removalist

This guide has described the building materials that replace asbestos, risks of asbestos exposure, asbestos-related diseases, and what to do if a material contains asbestos. If you want to replace asbestos on your property, it is best to invite experienced and licensed asbestos removalists to help you out. They know how to do legal and safe asbestos removal or replacement.