From the 1940s up until the mid-1990s, asbestos was a common fixture in the Australian building industry. This is due to its durability, insulating properties and fireproof nature.
However, it was eventually found that the fibres of asbestos were toxic to humans. As such, production of asbestos was stopped and using all forms of asbestos was banned.
Any houses in Australia built before 1995 are likely to contain asbestos material.
The Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos is safe if it is undamaged and undisturbed.
However, once it is damaged, fibres are released into the air that are invisible to the human eye and float through the air.
If breathed in, these fibres could cause lung scarring, lung cancer, mesothelioma and various other lung related issues.
Asbestos in construction
Prior to the mid-1980s, it was common practice for houses to have had asbestos used to construct the home.
From the mid-1980s to 1995, it is still possible that asbestos was used to build your home.
If your house was built after 1995, it is much less likely that your home would contain asbestos, though it is not impossible.
In 2003 it was made illegal to buy, sell, import, supply, use or re-use asbestos.
Asbestos in the home
Asbestos was generally used in areas where water was likely to be used, such as the kitchen, bathroom or laundry as a form of waterproofing.
The fireproof properties of asbestos made it a popular form of insulation for heaters, stoves, fuse holders, hot water piping.
Asbestos was a popular material for rooves and walls too.
Wall sheeting, roof sheeting and capping, guttering, outbuildings (sheds, dog kennels etc), eaves and stormwater pipes are just some of the places that may contain asbestos.
Many vinyl and linoleum sheets and carpet floorings also contained asbestos-felt.
What if I have asbestos?
If you are worried about asbestos, you should be very careful. Do not try and remove it yourself, as you could break it and inhale the dangerous fibres.
Instead, contact an expert to conduct asbestos testing.
The Steps of Asbestos Testing
A trained inspector will conduct a multistep process when carrying out an asbestos test.
Step 1: Preparation
Firstly, the safety of anyone nearby should be considered.
The area where a sample is being taken should be clear of other people.
Fans, air conditioners, heaters and any other device that might spread fibres should be turned off.
Step 2: Taking the Sample
Next, the act of asbestos testing should be carried out. This involves cutting a sample of material out of your wall that you suspect to be asbestos.
Before this, however, the inspector should wear all necessary protective gear (mask, overalls and gloves) and place down the plastic drop sheet to catch any material that falls on the floor.
The area where the sample will be taken is dampened to prevent the spread of asbestos fibres.
After this, the inspector will use the pliers to cut a hole in your wall that is roughly the size of a thumbnail but extends the whole depth of the material.
The sample is removed from the hole and stored away safely.
A piece of duct tape will then be placed over the hole area to stop asbestos fibres from being released and spread.
Step 3: Cleaning Up
The drop sheet is carefully collected and placed into a heavy-duty bag to be disposed of. All tools are wiped down and cleaned.
Step 4: Sending it to the lab
The safely stored sample will be sent to a lab for proper testing to determine whether it is asbestos or not.
We then give you a report outlining the findings and the lab results.