We are often asked variations on the following question:
‘I grew up in or live in a home built in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s… and I’m worried that I may have been exposed to asbestos, what do you think I should do, should I be worried?’
Or, the flip-side of this,
‘I grew up in or live in a home built in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s… and my parents did their own renovations at home. I breathed the dust and I’m fine – why should I be worried?’
Most homes built or renovated prior to 1990 contain some form of asbestos products. As we have discussed in our article ‘What is asbestos and where to find it?’ asbestos containing materials may not be that obvious or may have be covered up by a previous owner. Sources of Asbestos include both internal and external wall cladding, ceilings, decorative finishes and paints, Corrugated fencing, eaves/soffits, downpipes, gutters, roofing, electrical packing, old electric wiring, electric fuse carriers, and backing boards, vinyl tiles and sheet vinyl flooring, rope seals to old range cookers /ovens and fires, and more. It’s also possible even that someone has removed the asbestos products from your home in the past but there has been some historical exposure.
Now, our advice is that if a bonded asbestos product is not disturbed (or likely to be disturbed and remains in a good sealed condition) either by abrasion, cutting, breaking or drilling into the material then it is not a serious health risk. By-the-by this is also the opinion of the Department of Health. Unless disturbed, these fibres remain safely tucked away in their cement cocoon.
Asbestos only becomes hazardous when these fibres are floating around in the air where they can be inhaled into the lungs. Because asbestos is an inert mineral it will never break down or be removed, it sits there forever leading to potential health problems down the road.
To be sure it is safe, we would advise having air quality testing and/or dust sample testing performed in your home. These tests are performed by a professional Asbestos assessor and can determine whether there are any asbestos fibres present. If such a test shows there are no fibres floating around then you and your family can breathe much easier.
Also, keep an eye on any materials which you suspect to contain asbestos. Ensure they are in good condition with no cracks or weathering. Do not sand, pressure wash or drill into these materials and keep them covered with paint. This is the best way to keep this material safe and prevent it from becoming a hazard.
Asbestos exposure has been linked to 4,000 deaths in Australia each year and 90,000 globally. Talk to your family and friends and ensure that everyone in your property knows these simple rules in dealing with this material. Also make sure that any trades people working on your property are aware before they begin any work.
Lastly, if you really want this material out of your home and hair forever, you can bring in a trusted and professional Asbestos Removalist. A professional will ensure that all materials are wet down and completely contained throughout the entire removal process and will dispose of the waste safely for you. This process might be expensive, but it is the only way to ensure that none of this product ends up contaminating your home in the future.