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It is a real possibility for domestic properties in Australia to contain asbestos. You do not only need to consider naturally occurring asbestos, but you need to be on the lookout for asbestos products when building or renovating. Since serious health risks come with asbestos materials, you should know where you might find asbestos in Melbourne and other cities.
This guide highlights possible locations of asbestos in your home, asbestos removal tips, and guidelines for proper asbestos waste disposal. You can also get information on identifying and testing for asbestos and when to invite asbestos removalists.
Possible Locations of Asbestos in Your Home
Asbestos was common in many building materials from the 1940s to the late 1980s. As such, homes built during that period may have asbestos-containing materials. Although the use of asbestos products has been banned in Australia since 2003, goods that contain asbestos still exist in the country.
Asbestos fibres in homes may occur in a tightly or loosely bound form. Non-friable asbestos is those that are in good condition. They do not have any damage. On the other hand, friable asbestos is those that have suffered damage or become weathered.
This is firmly bound asbestos fibres. Asbestos cement products are a significant example of firmly bound asbestos in the home.
Asbestos cement products
Previously, fibre-cement products used to contain asbestos fibres as a firmly embedded component in the cement mixture. However, cellulose fibres are now used as an alternative to asbestos in modern fibre-cement products.
Possible locations of bonded asbestos cement products in homes include the following:
- Corrugated cement roofing
- Roof shingles
- Artificial brick cladding
- Vinyl flooring and floor tiles
Non-friable asbestos products can become friable when damaged or badly weathered.
Old insulation products
These loosely-bound asbestos fibres can exist in old forms of insulation on commercial properties. You can also find them in domestic stoves, heaters, and ceiling insulation products.
For example, brown asbestos is a type of asbestos found in sprayed insulation materials. Other possible asbestos-containing materials include hot water pipe insulation and carpet underlay products. Meanwhile, you can use glass fibres as an alternative to asbestos in insulation products.
Managing and Removing Asbestos in Your Home
In cases where homeowners can legally remove asbestos cement products from their homes, special precautions still need to be taken. Here are some tips on working safely with or managing asbestos:
- Materials in good condition are less likely to release fibres. However, asbestos-containing materials should be disposed of if they are loose or deteriorated.
- You must reduce exposure to asbestos if you perform activities such as sawing, drilling, renovation, demolition, or general maintenance.
- In addition, you must not use power tools as this may release fibres.
- You must use a licensed asbestos landfill site (that accepts asbestos) or recognized disposal facilities for asbestos disposal.
- Hiring a licensed asbestos removalist for safe asbestos removal and disposal is highly recommended.
- Licensed removalists are especially needed to remove large amounts of asbestos materials or friable asbestos.
- Remove and seal face respirators and disposable overalls in a container for proper disposal. Include an "asbestos-contaminated clothing" warning sign or label.
- Avoid the use of high-pressure water jets. They may cause loose materials to spread.
Tips for removal of asbestos products
Use the following tips when removing asbestos cement sheeting, roofing, and other "fibro" products.
- Close your doors and windows.
- First, remove nails before carefully removing asbestos cement sheeting. There should be minimal breakage.
- Take adequate care not to drop the sheets on the ground.
- As much as possible, avoid cutting or breaking up asbestos cement sheets.
Tips for proper disposal of asbestos waste
- According to the law, you must wrap, label, and dispose of asbestos-containing materials at EPA approved sites.
- Disposal of asbestos waste in skip bins and rubbish collection is illegal.
- You can bag asbestos dust into double polythene bags. Remember to wet the bagged dust and not fill the bags by more than 50% capacity.
Disclosure of asbestos presence in your home
You need to disclose the presence of asbestos in your property to those who wish to buy or rent it. Also, you must inform your neighbours ahead of time when removing asbestos-containing materials. This applies to your home or commercial property.
Asbestos and home insurance
You may wonder if fire-damaged houses or houses affected by disasters such as floods and storms are covered by insurance. Your insurance may not provide adequate cover for properties that contain asbestos materials. For this reason, it is essential to take the following preventive measures:
- Do proper checks for the presence of asbestos in your property. You do not have to wait until there is a disaster.
- Take steps to reduce risks of accidental damage or uninsured costs.
- You should take steps to remove any asbestos material safely.
Exposure and Asbestos-Related Diseases
Asbestos exposure can pose serious health risks and cause ill health. The ill health is a result of the inhalation of asbestos fibres. These asbestos fibres can become trapped in the lungs, disrupting the body's defence mechanisms.
Some asbestos diseases that can be caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos include the following:
- Lung cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Cancer of the larynx
- Cancer of the large intestine
Identifying and Testing for Asbestos
You need a conclusive asbestos test to confirm that a material contains asbestos. Visual inspection is usually not enough. A NATA-accredited asbestos laboratory (one approved by the National Association of Testing Authorities) must test an asbestos sample.
Competent persons who can help you collect the asbestos sample include the following:
- Professional occupational hygienists
- Licensed asbestos removalists
- A NATA-accredited asbestos laboratory
When to Invite Asbestos Removalists
There are many reasons to invite licensed asbestos removalists if you have to work with asbestos material. They will indeed have specialist training and personal protective equipment to remove asbestos safely. Moreover, you can be more confident in following applicable Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws.
It is advisable to get help from a licenced asbestos removalist in the following situations:
- Full home renovations
- Home repairs
- Demolition activities that will disturb asbestos cement materials
- Work involving friable asbestos
- Work with large amounts of asbestos cement materials
- When you need to control naturally occurring asbestos dust
- Arranging air monitoring for asbestos
Sources of Information on Handling Asbestos
Read on for valuable websites containing safety information, safety alert measures, and asbestos health information.
- Safe Work Australia's Model Code of Practice: How to Safely Remove Asbestos
- Asbestos awareness factsheets on the dangers of asbestos exposure and health Information on asbestos
- The website of Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency
- Work Safe Victoria information on asbestos in the workplace
Contacts for asbestos safety concerns
You can address your asbestos safety concerns with the following:
- Local council
- Health and safety regulators
- Environmental regulators
- Asbestos assessors and removalists
Documentation of Asbestos Exposure Cases
The National Asbestos Exposure Register has long been set up. It is a record of asbestos exposure incidences, and you can use it.
Meanwhile, you can use an asbestos register to record asbestos exposure. This register is helpful in later developments of asbestos diseases. In addition, the details of your record can help in compensation claims.
Get Help from Licensed Asbestos Removalists
After reading this post, you now know more about possible locations of asbestos in Melbourne. Remember to follow the tips on asbestos removal and disposal mentioned above.
Above all, be quick to get help from licensed asbestos removalists if you suspect the presence of asbestos in your domestic or commercial property. They can implement an effective asbestos management plan and help reduce the health risks of asbestos exposure.