Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals found in rock formations. Three types of asbestos were mined in Australia: white, blue and brown asbestos. Large deposits were mined in Western Australia and New South Wales, and there were smaller operations in Tasmania and South Australia. Asbestos mining was completely stopped in Australia by 1983 but it is still mined in large quantities at many locations worldwide. Mined asbestos only represented a small proportion of the asbestos used in Australia (about 5%) and the bulk was imported.
The majority of asbestos (90%) used throughout the world, including Australia, was white asbestos. Australia banned the use or import of blue and brown asbestos or asbestos products in the mid-1980s, and banned all manufacture or import of white asbestos products in December 2003.
Asbestos fibres are strong, heat resistant and have insulating properties. Clumps of mined asbestos can be broken down into loose fibres or fibre bundles, and can be mixed with other materials, such as cement, to produce a variety of building products. Up to 90% of the asbestos produced in or imported into Australia was used for the manufacture of building products, especially asbestos cement materials.
Asbestos fibres are not visible to the naked eye but, they are very light, remain airborne for a long time, and can be carried by wind and air currents over large distances.
Any product where the asbestos is bonded with cement or a resin binder to make it more stable. When left undisturbed, the health risks associated with these particular products are very low. However, products need to be removed or handled safely, and as such, it is best to contact a licensed asbestos removalist in this regard.
Products that may contain asbestos include
- internal and external wall sheeting and cladding
- vinyl and thermoplastic floor tiles backing to vinyl flooring
- ceiling tiles
- flat, corrugated and bitumen roofing material
- fireproofing around flues and ducts
- gutters, rainwater pipes and water tanks
- hessian carpet underlay
- sprayed on coatings on steelwork
- textured coatings
- insulation around pipes and electrical equipment
- thermal boards around fireplaces
- brick and plaster sealants, fillers and some adhesive products
- sprayed-on insulation or soundproofing
- low-density asbestos fibre board
- asbestos-rope door gaskets in wood stoves
Friable asbestos is present in any product that contains asbestos in a dusty or fibrous form, where it can be crumbled to a powder. This product is extremely dangerous and must only be handled by an asbestos contractor holding an A Class License.
Low Density Board (LDB), which is a bonded asbestos because of its high content of asbestos, must be removed under friable conditions.
As a general rule:
It can be difficult to assess whether your house has materials containing asbestos in it just by looking.
As a general rule, if your house was built:
- before the mid-1980s: it is highly likely that it has asbestos-containing products
- between the mid-1980s and 1990: it is likely that it has asbestos containing products
- after the 1990s: it is unlikely that it has asbestos-containing products1
1 Some houses built in the 1990s and early 2000s may have still used asbestos cement materials until the total ban on any activity involving asbestos products became effective from December 2003.
Asbestos Inside my House
Materials containing bonded asbestos were often used for internal wall sheeting, particularly in ‘wet areas’ such as the kitchen, bathroom and laundry. They were also used to sheet ceilings. Bonded asbestos may also be found in plaster patching compounds, textured paint and vinyl floor tiles (this can include the glue used to adhere the tiles to the floor).
It is common for people to assume that because the asbestos is in sheet form that it is classed as bonded. This is not the case as a product called LDB sheeting was used in the internal areas of buildings and this material is also deemed friable.
Friable asbestos might be found in a few older forms of insulation used in domestic heaters, stoves and in some situations, LDB sheeting. Asbestos insulation was not routinely used in residential buildings. In addition, asbestos-felt was used as a backing for many vinyl and linoleum sheet floorings.
There have also been cases in some buildings where the mastic used to seal glass into window frames contained asbestos. Asbestos-felt vinyl flooring and other forms of loose asbestos must only be removed by an asbestos removal business that holds an A Class Certificate. Depending on the method used to remove asbestos glue, you may also require an A Class removalist for this purpose.
Asbestos Outside My House
In relation to the exterior of houses, bonded materials containing asbestos were commonly used for roof sheeting and capping, guttering, gables, eaves/soffits, water pipes and flues, wall sheeting, flexible building boards and imitation brick cladding.
They have also been used for fencing, carports, sheds and garden edging. Loosely bound materials containing asbestos were not designed for use on the outside of houses.
If left untouched, asbestos poses no immediate danger. Asbestos products that are disturbed or broken through activities such as pressure cleaning and cutting or sanding with power tools can release hazardous fibres. However, when inhaled, asbestos fibres can lodge in the airways, lungs or stomach increasing the chances of developing asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma or benign plural diseases.
The risk of contracting these diseases increases with the number of fibres inhaled and the length of time you inhale them. You should always take extreme care when dealing with asbestos.
Only a licensed asbestos contractor can transport and dispose of asbestos at certified waste facilities.
A licensed asbestos removal company will ensure that asbestos is carefully wrapped, and subsequently transported in vehicles licensed to transport regulated waste. A waste tracking system is used to report disposal of all asbestos waste to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A1 Asbestos Removals is a licensed asbestos removalist company which has an extremely experienced, qualified and fully insured response team available for asbestos removal emergencies. As the holder of Class A and Class B Licences, we are able to safely remove both bonded and friable asbestos. We provide our services in Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and all surrounding areas.
We have also been issued a licence by the Queensland Government - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which enables us to legally and safely transport and dispose of hazardous waste at approved waste facilities.
For your peace of mind, we also hold AS/NZS 4801 : 2001 - Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems certification, which essentially means that our occupational health and safety procedures and processes are completely documented and we follow best practices to complete the job while adhering to the strict safety measures as documented by Workplace Health and Safety.