There was a stage in Australia where most homes were built with asbestos, whether that was in the walls or in roof tiles, a staggering 70,000 houses were built between 1944 (after World War II) and 1954.
These materials were used extensively because they were cheap, durable and readily available within the building industry, however no one understood the health implications that later became apparent.
If you’re wondering how to identify asbestos in your home, we have some important information below to assist you in identifying this product and more importantly, what you need to do if you do believe your home contains asbestos.
Asbestos homes are more likely to have been built prior to 1980, however, it is important to be mindful that asbestos and all products containing harmful asbestos were not banned in Australia until December 2003.
It is difficult to confidently know how to identify asbestos with the naked eye, however if your home was built or renovated prior to 1990, it’s highly likely to contain asbestos sheeting products. The only way to identify asbestos with 100% certainty is to have a sample analysed, but this can be an expensive process.
Can a builder help?
Some builders may be able to identify asbestos if sheets have been marked with a specific brand or product code, any if there are any suspicions that asbestos has been found, it needs to be treated in the appropriate manner.
What are the different types of asbestos?
Bonded asbestos (or non-friable asbestos) and Loosely Bound asbestos (or friable asbestos) were the types of materials that were used in new home builds or renovations. Bonded asbestos is more likely to be found in residential homes and usually contain between 15-40% of asbestos. The fibres are embedded in a hardened cement matrix and were also used for fire protection, insulation and may also be found in ceiling tiles, electrical panels and circuit boards.
Loosely Bound asbestos materials are more commonly found in commercial properties, this product is considered more dangerous as the fibres can easily become airborne.
Asbestos disposal by a licensed removalist
It is highly recommended that you utilise a licensed asbestos disposal removalist if you believe you have asbestos in your home. In South Australia, you are legally permitted to remove a maximum of 10 square metres without using a qualified removalist, any more than that you are legally required to employ the services of a licensed asbestos removalist who has a Class A or B license.
If you are removing asbestos yourself, no matter how small the amount is, you must take the appropriate precautions to protect not only yourself, but also your family and neighbours.
You must wear approved PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) which includes a respirator, hat, gloves, disposable clothing and safety goggles. Do not use power tools to assist with the removal, this may cause asbestos fibres to become airborne, which can result in you receiving a fine from council or other governing agencies.
At no time, should you waterblast or brush any asbestos sheeting. If for any reason the sheeting becomes damaged or deteriorates, you are required to contact a licensed asbestos removalist. You can gently wash sheets with water, as long as it is only a light spray, this may assist in keeping any dust down.
Notify your neighbours
Ensure that you have spoken to your neighbours prior to commencing any removal, you may suggest to them that they should keep their windows and doors closed. Lay plastic sheeting in your work area so you can place the sheets there as well as attempt to contain dust.
As your removal continues, stack asbestos sheets carefully on the plastic sheeting, it is recommended that you double wrap and tape each sheet and clearly label that it is asbestos waste. Once you have completed your removal, wrap one final time and dampen lightly to contain any loose dust. You can now transport your waste, but it must be sent to a landfill site that will legally accept asbestos, you cannot put asbestos in your general waste bin, nor can you dump asbestos products, it is illegal and will result in a hefty fine.
When in doubt, source it out – there are many licensed contractors who can assist you in the removal of this safely and promptly.