Asbestos Awareness In Residential Buildings

Hazards, Risks,  Safety Information

Over the past 30 years tens of thousands of home renovators and their children have unwittingly risked contracting mesothelioma, an aggressive and terminal form of asbestosis, the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia says.

Mesothelioma has a latency period up to 30 years or more, requires only a short exposure and can kill within months of diagnosis. Asbestos was in the cement sheeting used in the construction of nearly all fibro houses in Australia until it was banned in 1984, when it was replaced by cellulose. As a general guide, homes built from 1988 onwards should be asbestos free, while homes built before 1984 may contain significant amounts Asbestos Containing Material.

  • bonded-and-friable-asbestos
    Bonded and friable asbestos
  • bonded-asbestos-fence
    Bonded asbestos fence
  • bonded-asbestos-garage-
    Bonded asbestos garage roof
  • bonded-asbestos-meter-board
    Bonded asbestos meter board

Hazard & Risks

the following definition is provided:-

Hazard: a material that has the potential to cause adverse health effects

Risk:  is the likelihood that a hazardous material will cause adverse health effects therefore, if a hazardous material is present, it may not necessarily pose a risk to health. Many people believe that just because a hazard such as an Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) is present, then it immediately poses a risk to health. There are many factors that can render hazardous materials a risk to health, however, in the case of asbestos the level of risk is related only to the potential for the ACM to release respirable asbestos fibres. Asbestos is a risk to health via inhalation only.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a silicate mineral made up of tiny fibres. When it is disturbed, it produces a dust that contains asbestos fibres. Fibres breathed into the lungs can cause a range of health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos Identification Analysis

There are many  fibre-cement products that have ASBESTOS CONTAINING MATERIALS, that are impossible to identify with the naked  eye.

Only proper asbestos identification analysis can detect the presence and types of asbestos in these materials. The analysis technique uses stereo and polarised light microscopy to identify the presence of asbestos.

Many types of products can be recognized as potential ASBESTOS CONTAINING MATERIALS, however without the use of standard microscopic techniques (conducted by trained analysts) the on site confirmation that a material does not contain asbestos can never be achieved.

Where is Asbestos containing material commonly found on residential properties?

  • Bonded asbestos was often used as a lining material in electrical meter  boxes.
  • Roof sheeting and cappings, Eaves linings,  guttering, downpipes, gables, water pipes,
  • fuel burner flues, external wall cladding, flexible building boards and imitation brick cladding, fencing, garages, sheds,
  • water meter covers
  • Internal Wall and ceiling sheeting, In 'wet' areas such as  kitchens, bathrooms, laundries
  • In units Vermiculite spray on ceilings, Bonded plaster patching compounds, Textured paint,
  • Vinyl floor tiles, Fuel burner flues, Gas water heater flues,  Fences, etc
  • Garage fibro roof, gutter, downpipe and walls. This fibro would most likely be containing Asbestos materials
  • Fibro containing Asbestos materials was also used in garden fencing

What to do about Asbestos in buildings?

  • The mere presence of Asbestos Containing Material does not necessarily pose a risk to health
  • When ACM's are in good condition and left in situ, they pose no risk to health
  • Disturbance activities have the potential to liberate respirable asbestos fibres
  • Asbestos identification analysis is required for suspected ACM prior to any disturbance activity
  • Prior to any work commencing, a risk assessment should be carried out.
  • A safe work procedure should then be devised that   minimises the release of dust and fibres and  avoids exposure.
  • Removal of ACM should be  carried out by licensed operators in accordance with The National Occupational Health & Safety Commission's Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos.
  • WorkCover NSW's Asbestos & Demolition Unit can provide license checks on asbestos and demolition contractors.

Contact the Asbestos and Demolition Unit on (02) 8260 5885.

Any inquiries for analysis of suspected asbestos should be directed to NATA - The National Association of Testing Authorities. For a NATA Lab List call (02) 9736 8222 or refer to their website at