Healthy living

Asbestos

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was widely used in the manufacture of building materials and other products. In Australia the use of asbestos was phased out in the manufacture of building products through the 1980s and completely banned in 2003.

The 3 main types of commercial asbestos used in Western Australia are:

  • chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • amosite (brown asbestos)
  • crocidolite (blue asbestos).

Asbestos was processed and mixed with materials to produce a variety of products.

The most common product used in residential properties is asbestos cement. Asbestos cement products typically contain 10-15% asbestos.

Asbestos cement products pose little risk to health when they are in good condition and undisturbed. However, homeowners must take precautions when removing the products, renovating or doing maintenance work.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that was widely used in
building materials up to 1987. Asbestos fencing

The main types of asbestos mined in Australia include:

  • crocidolite (blue asbestos)
  • amosite (brown asbestos)
  • chrysotile (white asbestos).

The mineral was further processed and was mixed with other materials to produce a variety of products.Asbestos is commonly found in materials such as fencing.

Where you might find asbestos in your home

Asbestos was commonly used in building materials due to its durability, fire resistance and insulation properties.

It is commonly found in materials such as:

  • roofing, shingles and siding
  • fencing
  • exterior wall cladding
  • backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
  • textured paints
  • water or flue pipes.

When such materials are left undisturbed they are relatively harmless. However, if the material is damaged or disturbed it may release fibres into the air which can be dangerous to your health. Asbestos can be found in items such as roofing and wall cladding manufactured before 1987.

When was asbestos used?

In Western Australia, asbestos cement products were commonly manufactured from 1921 to 1987. The use of crocidolite ceased in 1966. Most uses of amosite ceased in May 1984.

The use of chrysotile asbestos was phased out between 1981 and 1987. Manufacturing of all asbestos products ceased in 1987.

Renovating your home

If you are thinking renovation, assess whether asbestos materials are in your home before you commence work.

You need to take care when renovating houses built prior to 1988 – it is likely
they will contain asbestos materials. Sign on a wire fence that reads: Danger, asbestos removal in progress. There is a house in the background.

Prior to renovating a house that may contain asbestos, it is important to know the:

  • potential health risks of asbestos
  • safety precautions required.

Safely removing asbestos can be a complicated process. It is best carried out by licensed professionals who have completed Exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer.relevant training. If asbestos material is damaged it can release fibres into the air causing a potential health risk.

How do you recognise asbestos products?

Generally, a person cannot determine whether a material contains asbestos by looking at it. Careful visual examination and the use of a microscope is the only way to verify the presence of asbestos.

If in doubt, treat suspect material as though it does contain asbestos.

To confirm the presence of asbestos in a product you will need to contact a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory. They can be found in the Yellow Pages (external site) under analysts.

What are the health effects of asbestos exposure?

In its raw form, asbestos is known to cause health effects in humans. Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause:

  • asbestosis
  • pleural plaque
  • lung cancer
  • mesothelioma.

The risk of developing an asbestos related disease depends on the total number of fibres inhaled.

To date, the majority of people who have developed asbestos related diseases have been exposed to relatively large numbers Asbestos fibres can be released from activities such as drilling, sanding and sawing. of fibres. This has usually been as a result of contact with the material in their occupation.

Generally, undisturbed asbestos cement products do not pose a health risk, as the fibres are bound together in a solid cement matrix. However, if the material is damaged or disturbed, fibres may be released into the air.

Many fibres can be released through using power tools for:

  • cutting
  • drilling
  • grinding
  • sanding Soil with pieces of asbestos
  • sawing.

The use of high pressure water blasters to clean the material prior to painting can also release large numbers of fibres.

These activities must not be performed. The risk of developing an asbestos related disease from working with asbestosActivities such as grinding, drilling and sawing can release asbestos fibres into the air. cement material depends on the:

  • nature of the activity
  • number of airborne fibres it produces.

This in turn determines the total number of fibres inhaled.

The natural ageing and weathering of asbestos cement roofs may release a very small number of fibres into the air over time.

These are unlikely to pose a risk to health.

Do I need approval to remove asbestos from my home?

Building renovation work (involving removal of asbestos from your home) may require a:

  • building licence
  • demolition licence.

Contact your local government (external site) for further advice.

How do I remove asbestos?

If you decide to remove asbestos from your home it is important that you comply with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 (external site). Asbestos removal is best carried out by
licensed professionals to ensure it is done safely. Licensed asbestos removalists

It is important that you know the dangers of asbestos and what safety precautions you need to take before renovating or removing asbestos material.

Asbestos cement products in your house describes step-by-step instructions on how to safely remove asbestos material from your home.Asbestos removal is best carried out by licensed professionals to ensure it is done safely.

Key points to remember are:

  • wet the surface of asbestos material down before commencing removal
  • do not use power tools on any asbestos material
  • wear suitable personal protective clothing
  • dispose of asbestos material at an approved landfill site.

Where do I dispose of asbestos?

All asbestos material must be disposed at a landfill or waste disposal site licensed by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Not all landfill sites accept asbestos.

The has a Department of Environment and Conservation has list of facilities accepting asbestos materials (external link).

Illegal dumping of asbestos

Contact your local government (external site) environment health services if you have concerns over:

  • the inappropriate removal of asbestos
  • illegal dumping of asbestos.

More information

  • A list of analytical laboratories that test asbestos material can be found in the Yellow Pages (external site).
  • Contact an environmental health officer from your local government (external site) for advice on asbestos removal.
  • For general enquiries contact the Environmental Health Directorate on 9388 4999.

Remember

  • Asbestos was commonly used in building materials due to its durability, fire resistance and insulation properties.
  • When asbestos material is left undisturbed it is relatively harmless.
  • Manufacturing of all asbestos products ceased in 1987.
  • Safely removing asbestos can be a complicated process.

Acknowledgements

Environmental Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.