Asbestos is a mineral made up of tiny fibres.
When it is disturbed, it produces a dust that contains asbestos fibres. Fibres breathed into the lungs can cause a range of serious health problems including:
- lung cancer
Asbestos was commonly used in building materials between the 1940s and 1980s because it is fire resistant, durable and efficient insulating material.
Now that we are aware of the health risks, it is banned in Australia.
Asbestos comes in 2 forms:
- Friable: loosely bound and generally found in forms of insulation including old heaters, old hot water services and pipe insulation. Friable asbestos is more likely to release fibres and is more of a health risk.
- Non-friable: bound and less likely to release fibres unless it is damaged. Non-friable asbestos is generally found in sheets used in walls and ceilings, cement roof tiles, flues, water pipes and ceramic tile underlay.
Asbestos in the home
Asbestos can be found in a number of areas around the home, including:
- roof tiles and insulation
- pipe and water tank insulation
- wall and floor panelling
- outdoor sheds
- backing for vinyl flooring.
The safest way to remove asbestos in the home is to hire a professional removalist. See Worksafe's list of licensed asbestos removalists or call them on 1800 136089.
Risks of existing asbestos
Asbestos does not pose a health risk unless the material is broken, deteriorating or disturbed in such a way that dust containing asbestos fibres is produced (such as during sanding or sawing).
Testing for asbestos
It is hard to tell if a building material contains asbestos. The only way to be certain is to have a sample tested in an accredited laboratory.
If you do not want to do this then you should treat any building material as if it contains asbestos.
If you have a complaint regarding the removal of asbestos by a licensed removalist or asbestos in the workplace, contact WorkSafe on 1800 136 089 or visit the WorkSafe website.
More about asbestos
Find out more about asbestos on the following websites:
A guide to asbestos
Asbestos: A guide for householders and the general public holds information on how to manage the risks from occasional encounters with asbestos materials in and around the home.
Remove asbestos from your home
How to remove asbestos from your home is produced by the Asbestos Council of Victoria Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support (GARDS).
Commercial transportation and disposal explains how to handle asbestos for businesses.
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