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relating to the danger of asbestos in your premises
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What is asbestos?

You probably have heard this word quite often, but what is asbestos exactly? ἄσβεστος is the Greek word for asbestos, which means “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable”. Asbestos is the common term for six fibrous minerals that occur by nature.

These mineral fibres belong to two groups:

  • Serpentine – it consists of chrysotile (white asbestos) only.
  • Amphibole – it consists of amosite, anthophyllite (brown or grey asbestos), tremolite, actinolite, and crocidolite (blue asbestos).



The asbestos-containing material (ACM) is categorised into two: friable and non-friable. What is the difference between those two?

1. The Non-friable ACM is a material that consists of more than 1% of asbestos. The material cannot be crushed by a hand pressure.

Examples of non-friable ACMs:

  • The covering of vinyl floor.
  • The products of asbestos cement (AC) whether they are profiled, flat or corrugated sheeting that are used in roofs, ceilings, walls, and moulded items like downpipes.
  • Textured paint.
  • Plaster patching compounds.


2. The Friable ACM is a material that consists of more than 1% of asbestos by area or weight, depending on whether the material is a sheeting material or bulk and it can be pulverised, crushed, or reduced to powder under the hand pressure.

Examples of friable ACMs:

  • Insulation and soundproofing.
  • Some sprays on fire retardants.
  • Pipe lagging.
  • Linoleum floor coverings and vinyl backing sheet.
  • Lining on old domestic heaters, hot water system, and stoves.


The History of Asbestos Use

Asbestos was discovered in the 1880s. It appeared as a miracle mineral for the industrial economies. The uniqueness of its properties, such as flexibility, durability, and fire-resistant property, made this material preferable to the construction industry. At the end of the 19th century, it emerged in industrial workplaces.

Construction companies began to use this material for walls and roofs. Asbestos became the alternative to cement for construction products as it became more and more popular. Approximately, over 60% of all manufacture and 90% of all consumption of ACM fibres in Australia were found in the AC manufacturing industry. A great number of these building materials are still in use at the moment. 25% of all new domestic buildings were cladded in AC in Australia up until the 1960s.

With the findings of the harmful effects and diseases brought by asbestos during the 1930s caused the authorities to pay attention to this material. Since the 1980s, the ACM has not been used in residential buildings. However, it was on 31st of December 2003 that asbestos was banned in all over Australia. It is considered illegal to either import, supply, store, install, sell, use or re-use asbestos, but this ban does not apply to ACMs that are installed before this date. Therefore, houses that was built or renovated prior to 1990 mostly contain asbestos products and they are likely to be AC sheeting.


Diseases connected to asbestos

When the ACM or asbestos is disturbed, it can generate dust. That dust contains asbestos fibres. The asbestos fibre is 50 to 200 times thinner compared to a human hair. It is not visible to the naked eye and does not have a smell.

When the fibres reside in the human’s tissue, the body cannot eliminate them. This fibrous material becomes a risk to health when the fibres become airborne and inhaled by people.

There are several diseases that are caused by breathing in asbestos fibres, including:

  • Asbestosis
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer
  • Asbestos-related pleural disease
  • Mesothelioma cancer
  • Pleural plaques


For smokers, the risk of getting lung cancer is much greater when they inhale asbestos fibres. To make things worst, the symptoms of all these diseases do not begin to develop until 20 to 30 years after the first exposure of asbestos fibres and dust.


Where you can locate asbestos?

This fibrous material can be found nearly in every corner of the house because it is estimated that one-third of all houses constructed in Australia contain products of asbestos. If your house was built:

  • before the mid-1980s, it is highly possible to contain asbestos.
  • during the mid-1980s until the end of 1990, it possibly contains asbestos.
  • after 1990, it seems likely to contain asbestos.


Where can you find asbestos at home? Literally, it can be identified in almost every part of the house, including:

  • fencing
  • roof
  • guttering
  • eaves
  • vinyl sheet flooring
  • wall sheeting
  • tile and carpet underlay
  • imitation brick cladding
  • window putty
  • building board
  • carports and sheds
  • expansion joints
  • waterproof membrane
  • packing under beams



How to identify asbestos in home?

The only possible way to identify asbestos in your house is by doing asbestos testing. By doing the asbestos testing, the samples of the material taken from your house will be analysed under a microscope through a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory. The result of the testing will be documented in a form of an asbestos registry, which includes the location, and type of asbestos found at home.


Removing the asbestos material

If your home is identified with a certain type of asbestos, the best solution is asbestos removal. It is a long term and the safest choice for asbestos findings. To remove the asbestos, you are strongly recommended to engage a licensed qualified removalist. You can either hire a Class A or B licenced removalist depending on the type and size of asbestos that is required to be removed.

Be sure to hire a removalist that has an accredited licence and experienced.


Manage your asbestos

For workplaces, commercial place or houses found to be installed with asbestos are required to have an Asbestos Management Plan or AMP. The AMP will help those who manage and control a building and other related structure to avoid people in the building being exposed to airborne fibres.

The management plan must be written in connection to the assumed or identified ACM or asbestos and for asbestos that occurs naturally at a building. The plan must include:

  • Asbestos identification.
  • Decisions and reasons about ACM management.
  • Methods for handling incidents or emergencies related to the fibrous material.
  • People who are working with this fibrous material.


The AMP should be ready to be accessed by the workers and people in the building as well as kept updated and reviewed at least every five years.


Dispose of asbestos

To dispose of asbestos, there are certain requirements that you need to fulfil. The asbestos waste must be handled with care because it is very dangerous and must be disposed of to a legal landfill site. Usually, disposal sites have similar rules, including:

  • The fibrous waste must be doubled packed in a black plastic bag.
  • The package should be sealed with tape.

The package has to be labelled as asbestos.

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