The Dangers of Asbestos in your Home!

A great deal depends on where and what it is. In a modern home it would be unusual to have it as a wall material internally and since about 1984 there would be little to no chance of any asbestos product being in a home. If your home was built before this date then there is a strong possibility that it contains asbestos products.

What is Asbestos and how does it harm you?

Asbestos was termed the miracle fibre. Since then we have learnt that it can kill you, all it takes is a single fibre to enter the lungs. If you look under a microscope at an asbestos fibre it is like a fishhook that can catch in the lung tissue. If this happens then the fibre is buried by other tissue and turns cancerous. It should be noted that there are different types of asbestos, blue, brown and white but they are all as dangerous as each other. An Interesting point has come to light recently in that the men who shovelled the asbestos into bags lived into their old age whilst their wives died quite young. On investigation it was found to be about human physiology. Workers who had their tonsils and adenoids removed had a much higher chance of getting the asbestos fibre directly in their lungs. Females of the day had a much higher incidence of tonsil removal than males due to the fact that males could not afford to be out of work at any time.

What Common Products Contain Asbestos.

  • Fencing
  • Gutters and Downpipes
  • Roofing Sheets
  • In Ground Pipes
  • Vinyl Tiles
  • Linoleum
  • Wall Sheets [internal and external wall sheets]
  • Ceiling sheets and cover battens.
  • Sprayed in cavities and on steel as a form of fire protection.

 When was it Banned in the Building Industry?

It was used for 100 years but it took a further 60 years to ban it, once it was found to harm people. It was slowly phased out from 1967 and the change was noted by the addition of a pink dye and the name was changed to Hardiflex Sheeting. It should be noted that although changed, the early sheets still contained a low level of asbestos.     What Product Was Used Instead of Asbestos? The asbestos was used as a binding agent in the cement mix for the sheets and was replaced by cellulose fibre. A paper based material that acted as a binder but was/is not harmful to humans. In brake linings a copper strand is used to replace the asbestos fibres. How can I Protect Myself From Harm? The following precautions should be taken;

  • If you suspect a product contains asbestos you can have it checked by a registered laboratory such as AMDEL or similar. It will cost you approximately $60 per test. For your money you will receive a certificate that states if it contains asbestos and if so, how much and what type. The statement is an official document that is recognised throughout Australia
  • If you find a product in your home you suspect contains asbestos you can have it tested then make an informed decision about removal or treatment of the product.
  • DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE IT YOURSELF, get someone who is a registered asbestos removal person and check their licence. It will not be cheap but what is a life worth?
  • Do not use drills, saws, grinders or sanders on suspected asbestos product. If the product is outside such as a fence it can be painted to seal the surface but that is all.
  • You will need to wear a dust mask if you are cutting a non asbestos sheet to protect yourself against silicosis of the lungs. This is the basic sand/cement product contained within the sheet.

When Was Asbestos Officially Banned?

Asbestos as a product was not officially banned until late 2003. The importing of any product containing asbestos was banned from entering Australia. As has been noted ,that the building industry had already put its own ban on asbestos containing building products. The manufacturer had set up a fund here in Australia to deal with claims from victims of Mesothelioma , Asbestosis and other related diseases.

The HomeMasters Experience

Homemasters was called out to the seaside town of Victor Harbor where a storm had wreaked havoc on a motel facade that appeared to be mainly asbestos cement. Some appeared to be the old, fibro asbestos and other parts appeared to be pink or the newer Cellulose fibre sheeting. The asbestos register on the premises stated that the sheet was suspected to contain asbestos. We had the product checked at AMDEL laboratories and found that the Fibro Asbestos contained 35% brown asbestos fibre while the pink product contained 15% white asbestos. Now the register could be changed to show all products contained asbestos and the repair work could be carried out in cellulose fibre cement sheeting. It should be noted that the Motel was closed while removal and replacement of the sheeting took place.

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