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DIY project tips are right at your fingertips, whether through a video play button or a click on the link to an article. The costs of professional asbestos removal may even make you want to do a DIY asbestos removal. However, such a removal may be better left to the experts. This article discusses why DIY asbestos removal is a dangerous idea.

You can read up on the steps involved in removing asbestos, why home renovators should not attempt DIY asbestos removal, and why asbestos exposure is a serious risk today. The post continues with the dangers of DIY asbestos removal in Australia and wraps up with safety precautions when working with asbestos.

Steps Involved in Removing Asbestos

The process for removing asbestos from older buildings, factories, and houses needs to be a very safe one. For example, you cannot just remove asbestos from a building and leave it by the curb.

  • You may be unable to tell if a material contains asbestos by looking at it. As such, you should identify asbestos before starting DIY renovations or repairs, especially on older buildings.
  • Typically, a licensed asbestos removalist will begin by performing an asbestos survey on your property. The survey report will detail the types, friability, condition, and risk assessment levels.
  • The removal process may also involve getting asbestos samples and performing asbestos testing processes in an accredited laboratory.
  • After implementing safety precautions, the asbestos removal team will initiate the removal, transport, and disposal of asbestos to a licensed landfill site or an asbestos disposal facility.  
  • It is always best to invite A licensed asbestos professional to manage the process of identifying and testing for asbestos and the actual asbestos removal and disposal
  • Accredited asbestos removalists are highly trained and have the skills and equipment to help identify, remove, and dispose of asbestos.

Why You Shouldn't Attempt DIY Asbestos Removal

The dangers of asbestos exposure during DIY home renovations are a common theme from the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency during National Asbestos Week. Home renovators attracted by the prospect of saving money through DIY asbestos removal must understand the risks of exposure to asbestos fibres in building materials.

Why Asbestos Exposure Is A Serious Risk Today

Australia's use of asbestos products peaked between 1945 and 1960. Subsequently, the use of asbestos products increased up until the late 1980s. Specifically, you will find that houses built before 1990 tend to contain friable asbestos products such as asbestos insulation.

Likewise, non-friable asbestos was commonly used for asbestos cement sheeting in home construction. Thus, you must be wary of asbestos materials such as cement roofing, insulation, and soundproofing.

A statistic thus specifies your chances of having asbestos in your home to be as high as one in three. This danger and risk of asbestos exposure further increases if you have the following:

  • Ageing and degrading asbestos materials that increases the risk of the release of toxic asbestos fibres into the air.
  • Extreme and frequent weather conditions, such as floods and fires, also increase the risk of asbestos exposure.

Dangers of Diy Asbestos Removal In Australia

You must take the risks of asbestos exposure seriously if you have to deal with commercial or residential asbestos. Ultimately, you can consider the following dangers of DIY asbestos removal:

Possible release of asbestos fibres

Home renovators and tradies must play it safe with asbestos and building materials. Older homes may contain asbestos in varying forms, such as asbestos cement sheeting, vinyl tiles, and ceiling panels.

These materials can break down, releasing asbestos fibres into the air that can cause health problems when you inhale them. In other words, the danger asbestos poses is often revealed in the process of disturbing asbestos.

Environmental and health risks of asbestos exposure

Up to 4,000 Australians die each year from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Not taking the proper safety precautions during asbestos removal can lead to serious health risks to humans and pose harm to the environment. This is one of the reasons why DIY asbestos removal is a dangerous idea.

Some of the harmful health effects that may arise from asbestos exposure include asbestosis, which can, in turn, lead to impaired lung function. Other health effects include mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Direct skin contact with asbestos can even lead to the formation of warts on the surface of the skin. You should promptly deal with asbestos fibres and avoid getting near asbestos-containing materials.

Illegal DIY removal of asbestos

Current Australian state and territory regulations require a Class B asbestos removal licence if you want to remove around 10 square metres of bonded asbestos materials.

You also need a Class A asbestos removal licence to remove any amount of friable asbestos. As such, you can only legally remove amounts under 10 square metres of bonded asbestos material.

However, the Australian Environmental Protection Authority reports that there isn't a 'safe level' of asbestos exposure. Similarly, Safe Work Australia advises you to get professional help from licensed asbestos removalists for any amount of asbestos removal to help reduce risks of asbestos exposure.

Actions such as working on asbestos roofs, using power tools to drill or using water blasters can actively release asbestos fibres into the air. The potentially dire consequence of disturbing asbestos is why water blasting asbestos materials is illegal in Australia.

Risking the life and health of loved ones

An asbestos awareness campaign study shows that 5% of DIY renovators were faced with asbestos exposure during renovations, and 40% had children who were exposed to asbestos fibres during that period.

You must wear personal protective equipment when removing asbestos. Performing DIY asbestos removal without proper gear does not only disregard regulatory guidelines. You also put yourself and others at risk of exposure. After all, asbestos fibres can stick to surfaces of clothes and cause indirect exposure to friends and family members.

Inability to comprehensively manage asbestos removal

You do not need to think only about what is in front of you when you have an asbestos problem on your hands. You also need to think about possible future fallouts, the possibility of further environmental contamination, and even the health of your neighbours.

Moreover, Australian law requires anyone performing daily asbestos removal to notify their local council, bring their local council's environmental health officer into the picture, and ensure proper disposal of asbestos materials. This includes adequate packaging and disposal methods and measures.

In other words, if you fail to consider all pertinent aspects of asbestos testing, handling, removal, transport, and disposal, you may face legal consequences such as fines. Therefore, it makes sense to rely on licensed asbestos removalists to provide a comprehensive asbestos removal service.

They are experienced in providing consultation and services for setting up asbestos management plans, asbestos registers, and air monitoring during and after asbestos removal. They can also provide good property asbestos inspections before starting construction work around your home.

Safety Precautions When Working With Asbestos

You cannot very well go knocking down, cutting, or drilling into building structures without knowing what materials they are made of. You may, for example, knockdown asbestos walls and raise asbestos dust that can cause harm to you and others. Here are some do's and don'ts that you should follow as a safety precaution when working with asbestos.

  • The first safety precaution is to invite an asbestos professional for projects that involve removing or disturbing asbestos materials.
  • Always wear personal protective clothing and equipment for any asbestos-related activity.
  • Using non-powered hand tools such as a hand-powered drill or hand saw is preferable to using power tools. You will generate less amounts of dust.
  • Use two layers of 0.2 mm thick polythene sheeting to carefully package asbestos material, such as sheets, in your packaging and disposal process.
  • Avoid walking on corrugated or weathered asbestos cement roofs. You may fall through them and get injured.
  • You can use a Dust Class H high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter-equipped vacuum cleaner to clean up asbestos cement residue from work areas and equipment.
  • Remember to double bag and seal decontamination materials such as mops and rags. You can dispose of them as you dispose of other asbestos waste.
  • A waste removal company can provide a mini skip on a hire basis and collect and dispose of your bagged asbestos waste.
  • Do not clean asbestos cement roofing with a high-pressure cleaner. 
  • Confirm that no dust or debris remains in the area after asbestos removal.
  • It is helpful to brush up on safety precautions highlighted in the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety's Code of Practice – How to Safely Remove Asbestos.
  • You can also get advice on asbestos removal from your Local Government's Environmental Health Services.

It's Safer to Hire Asbestos Contractors

This post on why DIY asbestos removal is a dangerous idea has considered the steps involved in removing asbestos and the dangers of DIY asbestos removal in Australia. This post shows many reasons to use a licensed asbestos removal company for any asbestos-related work. Asbestos contractors are trained specialists with the right tools and expertise to help you identify asbestos, remove it, and dispose of it safely and efficiently.