Ten Places in Your Home Where Asbestos Could Be Hiding

Although the use of asbestos has been long banned in Australia, asbestos-containing building materials may still be present in homes that were built in the 1980s and the prior years. We all know the dangers of being exposed to asbestos and its health risks, which is why when our clients at Defence Pest & Building Inspection Services decide on having their old homes renovated, we always caution them about the possibility of asbestos being present in their property.

Asbestos was a common building product due to its fire-resistant properties and was mainly used for insulation. Here are 10 common but, to some, still surprising areas in the home where asbestos might be lurking:

Floorboards or floor coverings

Many floorboards, coverings and vinyl tiles that were installed before the 1980s may contain asbestos. While most of these cannot be easily taken apart, there is a risk that asbestos fibres will be released when these materials are damaged.

Roof sheets and gutter

Roof sheeting and sliding, as well as gutters that contain asbestos are usually non-friable. However, due to wear and tear, they can gradually release asbestos particles in the air.

Ceiling tiles

Older properties with off-white panels used as ceiling tiles most likely contain asbestos. When removing the ceiling tiles, there is a risk of cutting through the material and damaging the tiles, in turn exposing the occupants to asbestos.

Attic insulation

If your home has an attic and it was built prior to the ban of asbestos, there is a possibility you will find asbestos in the products used. Because asbestos content in these construction materials may be high, it is encouraged that these be removed only by licensed technicians.

Wallpaper

You might think that replacing the wallpaper in your old home is a simple task, but if the property has been around since the 1980s, it is better to have every part of your home, including the wallpaper, checked by a qualified professional for the presence of asbestos.

Wall finishing

Wall compounds such as putties and cement patching may have asbestos-containing materials, so before you begin doing anything with your wall, make sure that safety measures are undertaken to avoid exposure to asbestos.

Switchboard panels and meter boards

Non-friable asbestos containing materials were typically used as electrical insulators, so it is safer to assume that your switchboard panels and meter boards contain asbestos, and then have them removed immediately. You can also have these materials tested if you want to be sure before replacing them.

Steam pipes and ducts

Metal pipes and ducts require the heat- and fire-resistant properties of asbestos, hence, these materials were secured using gaskets and caulking products that are partly made of asbestos.

Furnaces and burning stoves

Some of the oldest homes may have furnaces and wood-burning stoves, and to prevent fire-related accidents, materials that were used to surround the furnaces usually contain asbestos.

Home decor

The use of asbestos was prevalent in building construction, but unknown to many, there are also home and garden items that contain asbestos. If you own a property with garden decor such as a water pipe, planter bowl or even a table with a compressed sheet table top, then it is best to have our team from Defence Pest & Building Inspection Services check your home for presence of asbestos and other problems in your property.

Safe Handling And Disposal Of Asbestos Waste

Asbestos is known to be a hazardous material that can cause serious health threats. The use of asbestos-containing materials in building construction has since been prohibited in Australia. Laws on safe removal of asbestos from existing structures are also in place to ensure the safety of the entire community.

Asbestos Removal

Depending on the type of asbestos material and the amount of asbestos to be removed, there are different types of licence requirements for removal. For removal of non-friable asbestos, or materials that cannot be crumbled by the mere use of hand pressure, a licence is not required if the area is not larger than 10 square metres. However, our technicians at Defence Pest & Building Inspection Services strongly discourage property owners from removing asbestos-containing materials by themselves.

Although removal of non-friable asbestos is allowed for individuals without a licence, there are still possibilities of asbestos particles contaminating the air during the process.

Should you perform the removal yourself, make sure that you do not use power tools, sanding materials or other equipment that might break the asbestos-containing material and cause the spread of asbestos particles. We recommend that you do not use a vacuum or compressed air for cleaning asbestos dust; instead, use a damp cloth and then dispose of the cloth in a sealed plastic bag.

Disposal of Asbestos Waste

Materials that contain asbestos must be handled carefully and waste must be properly sealed prior to transportation.

For non-friable or bonded asbestos, the material can first be wet down with water and then secured in a heavy-duty plastic bag that is no less than 0.2 mm thick. The bag can be wrapped with a duct tape. Make sure that there are no sharp edges or materials that will puncture or damage the sealed bag.

Friable asbestos and asbestos dust must be secured in a sealed container or a 0.2-mm plastic bag. Each bag should contain no more than 25 kg of friable asbestos and the bag must be secured with a wire tie. Soil that has been contaminated with asbestos should be wet down before disposal. Asbestos waste bags should have a proper and clear safety warning sign.

Only after the asbestos materials have been properly sealed can they be transported in a covered and leak-proof vehicle. Asbestos is categorised as a hazardous/special waste and can only be disposed of and buried in landfills that accept asbestos waste.

Getting Help with Removal and Disposal

For your convenience, you can ask for assistance on asbestos removal and disposal from our team at Defence Pest & Building Inspection Services. Working with a licensed asbestos removalist will not only make the process more efficient for you; you can also be sure of your family’s safety.

Keeping Yourself Aware of the Dangers of Asbestos

With asbestos present in about one in every three homes in Australia, it is no surprise that the removal of asbestos is a common subject during client consultations at Defence Pest and Building Inspections.

Despite warnings about the dangers of asbestos, however, many homeowners are still not well-informed about its health risks and the legal requirements for the removal and management of asbestos.

And with November being the month of Asbestos Awareness, our team at Defence Pest and Building Inspections joins in helping raise understanding on the impact of asbestos on health and on the proper methods of asbestos management.

Some Facts About Asbestos

  • Asbestos is a group of minerals mainly composed of silicon and oxygen, and is most distinct for its fibrous form. The mining of asbestos was widespread until the 1900s, when it was discovered to be toxic to health.
  • Due to its fire-resistant, heat-resistant and binding properties, asbestos was a popular material in the building and construction industry.
  • In homes, asbestos can be found as materials on walls and wall coverings, ceilings, floor tiles, insulated pipes and window glaze.
  • Inhalation of asbestos or contact on skin can be hazardous. The health risks include cancer of the lining of the chest (mesothelioma), lung cancer and the scarring of lungs caused by inhaling asbestos fibres (asbestosis).
  • The use of asbestos has been permanently banned in Australia since 1987 and there is a continuous push to remove asbestos from every home that contains such materials.

Is My Home Free from Asbestos?

If your house was built before the total ban of asbestos, there is a chance that it contains asbestos. While it cannot be easily determined through visual inspection, our licensed inspectors can help with identifying materials and areas where asbestos is present, using the appropriate equipment.

What to Do if My Home Contains Asbestos?

To guard your family against health risks, it is recommended that asbestos be removed from your property. The long-term effects of prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to malignant conditions. Since airborne particles cannot be seen by the naked eye, there is an increased risk if asbestos materials become damaged without your knowledge.

When it comes to asbestos management, you have to take into consideration that only licensed individuals are allowed to remove large amounts of asbestos. Doing it on your own may put you and your family’s health in danger.

What If I Don’t Have The Asbestos Removed?

We have encountered property owners who prefer to not have asbestos removed. The most common reason is that they do not require renovation and the removal process may only incur costs. However, the cost of inspection and removal is minute compared to the health risks of keeping asbestos in your home.

Furthermore, accidental damage, a small hole in the wall, or broken materials can release the toxic fibres, increasing your risk to exposure and diseases – all of which can be avoided if asbestos is completely removed from your property.

The Hazards of Abestos

Exposure to asbestos poses a serious health risk, which is why the use of building materials containing asbestos has long been banned in the construction industry. At present, asbestos is being continually removed from homes that were built before the late 1980s – the time prior to the complete ban of asbestos.

Why Asbestos Needs to Be Removed

Initially, asbestos was thought to be a useful material for preventing fires; however, it was later found that it was hazardous to human health. Inhalation of asbestos had led to several cases of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, which resulted in deaths. For this very reason, the government has put a stop to the use of asbestos in homes.

While most of the cases of medical conditions resulting from exposure to asbestos happened several decades ago, until today, the risks remain the same. Hence, the total removal of asbestos has become an important measure. Not every homeowner is aware of certain damages in the walls, ceilings or even floor tiles that may be causing the residents to be exposed to asbestos, so it is safer that the entire material is taken out altogether.

The Dangers of Removing Asbestos

Removal of asbestos materials isn’t an easy task, however. Incorrect handling will mean unnecessary exposure – either through inhalation or skin contact. Both of which can cause harm either to your respiratory system or your skin (growth of warts).

And if you don’t know how much asbestos is found in your home, you may not realise that while removing materials by yourself, you are exposing yourself much longer and at higher amounts, in effect increasing the health risk.

Specialised equipment, just like what we use at Defence Pest and Building Inspections, is also necessary to avoid the dangers of asbestos.

Who Should Handle Asbestos Removal?

To ensure safety, only licensed handlers are allowed to remove asbestos from properties. There are also various classes of licenses required, depending on the area that is covered and type of asbestos to be removed.

If the area covered is less than 10 square metres, a licence is not required, but you need to take precautionary measures. You may want to consult with WHS to ensure that you comply with the regulations.

How Do I Know If My Home Has Asbestos

It is almost impossible to detect asbestos in your home by simply looking at ceilings, walls or floor tiles. The materials may need to be inspected and tested using the appropriate equipment. You can also have your home inspected by Defence Pest and Building Inspections, where our experts can help you determine if you have areas that require asbestos removal.

Asbestos

The Building Services Authority (BSA) has developed a Fact Sheet to inform consumers on issues related to asbestos. Asbestos presents a health hazard if fibres of a respirable size become airborne and are then inhaled. Possible health effects include lung cancer, asbestosis (lung scarring that impairs breathing), mesothelioma (lung cancer), and benign plural diseases (disease affecting lung linings).

Any tradesperson or other worker who is required to remove asbestos materials needs to know how to do it safely. This fact sheet contains basic information only. Please contact Workplace Health and Safety before working with asbestos.

Types of Asbestos

There are two main types of materials containing asbestos that are used in building: friable (loose) asbestos; and bonded (non-friable) asbestos.

Friable (loose) asbestos

Friable asbestos refers to any asbestos-containing material that when dry, can be easily crumbled by hand. Common examples of friable asbestos are acoustic ceilings and tiles, many types of plasters, wallboard, sprayed asbestos insulation, and pipe and boiler insulation. Use of asbestos in these products was banned in the 1980s, but some may still have been used in later construction. Sweeping, dusting or using a household vacuum will make these fibres airborne. This type of asbestos can only be removed by a person holding an ‘A Class’ licence (see below).

Bonded (non-friable) asbestos

Bonded asbestos contains a binder or hardening agent such as cement, asphalt or vinyl and is difficult to damage by hand. Common examples of bonded asbestos are asphalt roofing shingles, vinyl asbestos floor tiles, asbestos-cement sheets (fibro), and electrical switchboards.

Licences required to remove asbestos

The removal of asbestos is licensed by Workplace Health and Safety (WHS). A person removing more than 10m2 of asbestos must have an ‘A Class’ or ‘B Class’ WHS licence.

‘A’ Class Licence – is required to remove loose (friable) asbestos. ‘A’ class licence holders do not require a ‘B’ class licence.

‘B’ Class Licence – is required to remove 10m² or more of bonded asbestos. Removing less than 10m² does not require a licence, BUT safety precautions are essential. Consult with WHS before attempting to remove asbestos.

Often there is building work associated with asbestos removal (for example, replacement of a ceiling, roof etc). Building work valued in excess of $1,100 must be performed by a BSA-licensed contractor.

Environmental Tips

Play it safe with asbestos. Don’t store or reuse any asbestos materials you have removed. Don’t dispose of asbestos waste in a normal rubbish bin or skip or during council bulk waste collections. Don’t dump asbestos waste in the environment. Fines apply.

Useful Contacts

Queensland Building and Construction Commission Phone: 139 333
www.qbcc.qld.gov.au

Workplace Health and Safety Phone: 1300 744 636 / 1300 369 915
www.health.qld.gov.au / www.worksafe.qld.gov.au

Asbestos Industry Association Phone: 07 3870 5561
www.asbestosindustry.asn.au

National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) Phone: 07 3870 3844
www.nata.asn.au

Asbestos & You Web: www.asbestosandyou.com.au

Further Information

For further information on working with asbestos, contact Workplace Health and Safety using the contact details above. If you require information about licensing for associated building work, contact BSA on 1300 272 272 or visit www.bsa.qld.gov.au.

What You Need To Know About Asbestos

Most of us are at least minimally aware of the dangers that are associated with asbestos. Asbestos is a word that is used to describe a group of naturally-occurring minerals; these minerals are used in many products and are composed of ultra-fine fibres. Those fibres are easily inhaled into the respiratory system, where they can do terrible damage to the lungs and other organs.

The Dangers Of Asbestos

The most common malady that is associated with asbestos is mesothelioma. The mesothelium is the lining that protects various organs in the human body. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can become embedded in the mesothelium – most commonly the pleural mesothelium, which surrounds the lungs. Over time, they can prompt cancer in the mesothelium, which is where the term mesothelioma comes from. All it takes is a one-time exposure to asbestos to come down with such a serious illness, whose symptoms may not present themselves for decades.

What’s Safe And What Isn’t?

Any time you buy a new home, especially if it is old, you should have Brisbane building inspections performed. However, you need to be aware that asbestos that is found in between the walls is okay, assuming that it is sealed or untempered. The danger lies in asbestos that is chipped or broken; that’s when exposure can be quite dangerous, and something needs to be done right away. Also, never sand or chip away at asbestos-treated materials; this can increase your risk of having a problem.

How Building And Pest Inspections Can Help

When you buy a new home, you should have it carefully inspected by a professional pest inspection firm in Brisbane. Building and pest inspections professionals occasionally uncover evidence of asbestos in the homes that they inspect. If they find it in yours, keep in mind that a licensed asbestos company will have to take a look at it as well. Your building inspection company may send away samples of what they find to determine whether or not it actually is asbestos. Either way, be aware that you should never attempt to remove asbestos yourself.

Protect Your Health – Steer Clear Of Asbestos

If asbestos is discovered in your home, make it a point to have it removed as quickly as possible. Be sure to hire a professional asbestos removal company so that every safety precaution possible is taken. Under absolutely no circumstances should you ever attempt to remove asbestos yourself – the risk is simply too great. Remember that all it takes is a single exposure to asbestos to eventually come down with an incurable illness like mesothelioma. Play it safe and let the professionals handle the situation for you – it’s always the best course of action.

Getting Rid of Asbestos From Your Home

Back in the day, asbestos was a popular ingredient of building materials, which were commonly used for the construction of houses. Its fire- and heat-resistant properties have seemingly made homes a safer place to live in. However, in recent decades, it was found that the use of asbestos could be hazardous to health and that its health risks outweigh the benefits.

How Harmful is Asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos – specifically through inhalation – can cause medical conditions. The possible impact on health is so serious that the Australian government has banned the use of asbestos and aims for the complete removal of asbestos from homes by 2030.

The diseases caused by exposure to asbestos include:
• Asbestosis – a lung condition that causes difficulty in breathing and the scarring of the lungs
• Warts – develops when asbestos fibres accumulate in the skin
• Lung cancer
Although the severity of the condition varies depending on the degree of exposure, repeated exposure to asbestos can put you at higher risk for these diseases.

Does My Home Contain Asbestos?

Building materials that contain asbestos were widely used for constructing commercial and residential establishments in the 1800s until the late 1980s. These building materials include roofs, vinyl floor tiles, plasterboard (drywall) and acoustic walls and ceilings.

It may not necessarily mean though that if your home was constructed between these years, it contains asbestos. Still, because of the possibility, it is recommended to have your property inspected for your own safety. Better safe than sorry.

Can I Identify Asbestos Materials and Remove Them by Myself?

Many of our clients at Defence Pest and Building Inspections have previously wanted to try assessing the presence of asbestos materials in their homes by themselves. Unfortunately, this process is not as simple as some would think. Aside from the fact that asbestos fibre cannot be identified by the naked eye, the removal of asbestos requires precautionary measures and the use of specialised equipment.

Moreover, because of the dangers of asbestos, only licensed handlers are authorised to remove large sections of asbestos. Certain license classes are also limited to the type of asbestos that can be removed, so it is necessary that the type of asbestos and the size of area covered are first determined before proceeding with the removal.

So My House Contains Asbestos, What’s Next?

Defence Pest and Building Inspections can help you with the removal of asbestos. If, after our team’s inspection, your house has been found to contain materials with asbestos, our licensed handlers will set out a plan on the safe removal of asbestos. Of course, we will discuss every detail of the process with you.

Why You Need to Get Rid of Asbestos Materials

Asbestos is a type of mineral that is added to building materials, such as floor tiles, roofing shingles, fire doors, plaster, ceilings and cement sheets, for its fire-resistant and heat-resistant properties. Construction and electrical materials that contain asbestos are often used for building insulation and electrical insulation purposes.

Why is Asbestos Hazardous?

While asbestos has its uses, it can also be hazardous to health. It has been found to cause diseases such as asbestosis and lung cancer. Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory medical condition affecting the lungs, which is caused mainly by inhalation of asbestos fibres. There have also been recorded cases of warts caused by the lodging of asbestos fibres in the skin.

Construction materials that contain asbestos can be hazardous when the fibres become airborne, making it possible to be inhaled and retained in the body. This can happen when asbestos materials crumble or break and the fibres travel through air.

Types of Asbestos

Friable Asbestos

The use of materials that are friable has an increased risk of hazards because the material is so weak and loose that a simple finger pressure can break it down into pieces. This means that, easy as that, it makes asbestos inhalable.

Bonded Asbestos

Asbestos materials that need more force than just finger pressure are classified under bonded asbestos. The combination typically uses a binding agent, such as cement, that makes it hard to crumble unless using significant forces.

Removal of Asbestos in Australia

Asbestos continues to be a hazard in Australia, especially in homes and establishments that were built before the complete ban of asbestos in the late 1980s. To ensure the protection of its citizens, the government plans a complete removal of asbestos by 2030.

Only licensed handlers are allowed to remove more than ten square metres of asbestos. The Workplace Health and Safety requires a Class A licence for the removal of friable asbestos, and Class B licence for bonded asbestos.

If you want to make sure that your home is safe from asbestos and its hazards, Brisbane Building and Pest Inspections can provide accurate house inspections. We use the most effective technology in determining whether your home contains asbestos materials and carefully plan out an efficient and safe way of removal.

Our workers at Brisbane Building and Pest Inspections are also licensed handlers, so whether you need friable asbestos or bonded asbestos removed from your property, we’re sure to get the job done seamlessly and professionally.