Asbestos came into use as a popular building material in the post-WWII era and was used up to the mid-1980s. During this time it was used in up to a third of Australian homes. Officially banned in 2003, breathing in asbestos fibres can cause fatal medical conditions such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
In it’s bonded form (which is how you’re most likely to encounter it), asbestos-containing materials are relative stable. However, they pose a health risk if they’re damaged, weathered or disturbed.
If your home was built during the period that asbestos was used as a building material, it’s important to know how to handle the situation if you happen to come across any. Because of its hazardous nature, the proper maintenance, handling and disposal of asbestos waste is hugely important.
Check out the rest of this article to learn more about the 7 important things you need to know when dealing with asbestos.
What To Do If You Find Asbestos In Your Home
If you think that you’ve come across some asbestos in your home, the important thing is not to touch it. This is because asbestos only poses a health risk if it is disturbed in a way that produces dust that contains asbestos fibres.
Even if you do discover some asbestos, if the material is not damaged and shows no sign of wear, it can often be left in place. Indeed, the safest course of action in a lot of instances is simply to leave it alone.
Once you know that it’s there, make sure you visually inspect the asbestos-containing material from time to time to check for signs of deterioration or damage.
Getting Materials Tested For Asbestos
If you’re thinking of performing some renovations on or demolishing an older property and are unsure if it contains asbestos, there are laboratory tests that can provide you with the answers you’re looking for.
Just search online to find the one that’s closest to you.
How To Deal With Broken Asbestos
If you happen to accidentally break some material that contains asbestos, the safest course of action is the wipe up any dust with a damp cloth or paper towel. You should then put the cloth/towel into two plastic bags (tied up individually) and put them in the rubbish bin.
DO NOT USE A VACUUM CLEANER! Household vacuum cleaners can’t filter out all of the particles, and can actually release more particles into the air, which is extremely hazardous.
If the asbestos-containing material has become cracked, it should be sealed with a product like paint or PVA glue. If more significant damage is involved, the entire sheet needs to be replaced and disposed of correctly.
Removing Asbestos Yourself
While homeowners are legally allowed to carry out asbestos removal themselves (under certain, very specific conditions), this is something that is not recommended. Given the hazardous nature of handling the material, it’s far safer to leave the job to a trained professional.
However, if you do decide to remove the asbestos yourself, we strongly encourage you to attend an asbestos course in order to learn how to handle the material safely, adhere to the recommended safety practices and wear the right personal protective equipment.
Disposing Of Asbestos
Unlike other building waste, you’re not able just to throw asbestos out at the tip. It needs to be disposed of as soon as possible at a site which has been approved by your local council.
In addition to this, each council will have its own set of rules on if and how it receives asbestos waste, so it’s highly advisable to contact yours before you being work in order to avoid health hazards and potential fines.
Managing An Asbestos Incident
There are a number of steps you should take depending on the nature and circumstances of the asbestos incident. This will determine how it is managed and which agencies become involved.
- If the incident is a public health issue then you should refer it to the Environmental Health Officer at your local council.
- If it’s an occupational health and safety issue then you should refer it to WorkSafe.
- If the incident relates to the transportation or disposal of asbestos then you should refer it to the Environmental Protection Authority.
Other Things To Consider
Some renovation or demolition activities require planning approval and permits from your local council, so make sure you contact them before you start planning your work.
If you’re employing someone to remove asbestos from your property, it’s possible that they’ll need to be a licensed asbestos removalist. Engaging someone that doesn’t have the correct license can have some severe legal ramifications, so again it’s advisable to contact your local council first to clarify what your obligations are.