Sustainable Materials: Moving Away from Asbestos

 

Asbestos is the name given to a group of natural mineral fibres that was widely used as a building material prior to 1990 in a variety of products due to excellent strength, insulation and fire resistant properties. It is very versatile and estimates suggest that it has been used in over 3000 applications globally.

Till the mid 1980s, Australia used to be one of highest per capita users of this group of natural fibres. In fact, its use was so widespread in Australia that around one-third of all homes in the country are estimated to have used Asbestos in some form. After the discovery of its carcinogenic properties in the mid 1980s, its use was banned but it is still present in a significant number of homes and it can be deadly.

Health Effects of Exposure to Asbestos

It is a known carcinogen which means that inhalation of these fibres is known to be associated with increased risk of a variety of diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural disease and mesothelioma. It is also pertinent to mention here that even short-term or limited exposure to these fibres can be dangerous but it is not necessary that an individual will develop an asbestos related disease (ARD) due to exposure to these fibres.

Medicals researchers are still trying to find out the reasons for susceptibility of some people to asbestos related diseases whereas there are others who may avoid contracting and ARD even though they have been regularly exposed to these fibres.

Presence of Asbestos in the Home

As mentioned above, almost one third of all the homes built in Australia have used asbestos in some form. In case your house was built before the mid-1980s, there is a high chance that it does contain Asbestos in some form. Similarly, if your house was built between mid 1980s and 1990, it may also have some asbestos.

However, all the houses that were built after 1990 are unlikely to have used any building materials containing asbestos.

As far as determining the presence of asbestos in a particular material is concerned, it cannot be determined visually. The only sure way to determine the presence of asbestos is to get a sample tested by a laboratory that has been accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities.

Give a call on 1800 621 666 or visit www.nata.com.au to find out more about accredited laboratories offering such testing in your area. When in doubt, you should treat the material as if it has some asbestos. If there is in fact asbestos in your home your best bet is to contact a company that does asbestos removal in Perth and surrounding areas, they will be able to safely remove the risk from your home and dispose of it appropriately.

What to do in case a wall is damaged in the house and you think it is has asbestos?

First of all, you should not use a common vacuum cleaner as it does not have the ability to filter out all the dangerous particles and in some cases, it may also release more fine fibres in the air thereby polluting the indoor air. The best way to manage exposure in case of a wall damage is to take a damp paper towel or a damp cloth and wipe up the dust with it.

This damp towel or cloth should be placed inside a plastic bag and tied up and this plastic bag should be placed in another plastic bag. You should tie this second bag tightly and put it in the rubbish bin.

In case of minor damage, you may use a sealant such as polyfiller, paint or PVA glue to seal the crack in the wall. However, if the damage is severe and can’t be sealed, you should get that sheet replaced and make sure that the old sheet is disposed of in the correct manner.

Removing Asbestos from Your Home on Your Own

As far as approval for removing asbestos from your home is concerned, each state and territory has its own requirements. Any renovation work that involves removing asbestos from the building may require you to obtain a building licence or demolition licence if the building is going to be demolished.

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