Asbestos has been a huge problem for countries who put it to use decades ago. In the U.S., it was used for everything from home construction to military purposes. Unfortunately, Australia has seen major issues with asbestos, as well.
At one point, Australia was the world’s largest consumer of asbestos, using it mostly for manufacturing and construction purposes. The mining of asbestos in the country was only stopped in 1983. However, it wasn’t completely banned until 2003. As a result, many commercial buildings and homes in the country still contain asbestos, and you may not even know it.
Why Asbestos is Such a Problem in Australia?
Because of the popularity of asbestos in Australia, we also have one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. It was estimated that we would reach 18,000 cases of mesothelioma by 2020, and an additional 30,000-40,000 conditions related to asbestos exposure.
Needless to say, despite the fact that it isn’t being used anymore, asbestos remains a big problem for Aussies.
Why such high numbers for a material that has been banned for nearly 20 years?
A lot of it has to do with the growing popularity of DIY projects and home solutions. Researchers believe we are experiencing a sort of ‘third wave’ of asbestos cases because more homeowners want to complete renovations and large projects within the home.
Many times, when people are completing these home improvement projects, it requires some type of tearing down and rebuilding. For example, if someone wants to tear down a wall, put up new drywall, etc., it requires “digging” into the wall. That can lead to asbestos exposure depending on when the home was built. This is one reason why you should also use a professional when you want to demolish a house.
What is Asbestos?
You’ve probably heard of asbestos before, and most people understand that it’s dangerous. But, what is it, really?
Asbestos is actually made up of six different materials that occur naturally. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it safe. The combination of those materials create soft, flexible fibers. Those fibers are extremely resistant to heat, cold, and corrosion. So, it’s no wonder why asbestos was so popular as a construction material.
Once upon a time, asbestos was mined all over the world. It is typically found in either in large deposits or within the veins of serpentine rock. Used for more than just construction, asbestos has sometimes been added to things like paper and plastic to make those materials stronger and more secure.
You can learn more about the history of asbestos and what it is by checking out the video below.
What Does it Look Like?
There are two types of asbestos: Serpentine and amphibole.
Serpentine asbestos features curly fibers that have a white tint to them. Amphibole are straighter and can appear jagged.
With that being said, it can be extremely difficult to identify asbestos within your own home just by looking at it. If you do think you’ve found it somewhere in your home, the best thing you can do is to hire a professional to look at it. Or, you can send a sample to a laboratory to get it tested before completing your project.
Where Will You Find It?
Even though asbestos is hard to identify, you should be especially careful in certain areas of your home where it may have been used for construction purposes. Some of the most common places include:
- Roof shingles
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Textured paint
One of the most common scenarios for asbestos exposure is people finding it in their old insulation. Let’s say, for example, that you want to renovate an attic or den in your home. If you’re living in an older home, the room might be drafty and require new insulation.
Today’s insulation options are safe and secure. But, the old insulation will have to be removed first. Unfortunately, depending on when your home was constructed, you could be scraping away asbestos as you clear the old material away.
The same type of scenario can occur whether you’re drilling into drywall, removing tile floors, or even cutting away insulation on old pipes.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
If asbestos was so popular, why is it so dangerous? Unfortunately, the risks of asbestos exposure weren’t discovered until after it had been in use for many years.
But, the greatest risks come from the greatest strengths of the material. The strong fibers of asbestos are what makes it a great insulator. Unfortunately, those fibers can wreak havoc on your body when you breathe them in.
The fibers are so small that when they are breathed in, they can get buried deep within the tissue of your lungs. Over time, that can lead to a variety of different respiratory issues, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Many people who are exposed to asbestos think they’re fine because they don’t experience any symptoms right away. But, most diseases related to asbestos exposure don’t present themselves until many years later.
How Much Exposure is Harmful?
It’s best to avoid any asbestos exposure. Breathing in even a small amount can cause damage to your lungs. In some cases, you may not even realize the damage that has been done for years.
However, if you have found asbestos in your home, there is no need to panic right away. The more you are exposed to the material, the greater the risk. By avoiding it as much as possible and getting it taken care of, you can reduce your risk of developing any conditions significantly.
Additionally, some people are more at risk than others, depending on your age, lifestyle, and your overall health.
What to Do If You Find Asbestos in Your House
If you suspect that there is asbestos in your home, the best thing you can do is to call a professional. As stated above, you can send in a small sample to get it tested, but that shouldn’t be your first line of defense. Your first action should be to call someone who can test it for you so you don’t have to be around the material.
If you know for a fact that you’re dealing with asbestos, removing it completely should be a last resort, and it should absolutely never be something you do on your own. Removal can lead to the disturbance of fibers in the material, causing them to become airborne, which makes it more likely that you’ll breathe them in.
Instead, if you want to take care of asbestos on your own, the best thing you can do is to encapsulate it somehow. Seal it completely so the fibers cannot float into the air. Again, this should be done by a professional, but if you absolutely want to do it on your own, be sure to wear protective coverings and try not to disturb the material as you seal it.
Dos and Don’ts of Asbestos Removal
No matter what type of home project you want to tackle, there are a few “dos and don’ts” you should know when it comes to asbestos.
We can’t stress enough that even if you aren’t sure there is asbestos in your home, it’s a good idea to have any material tested by a professional before completing a project.
With that in mind, some of the additional things you should do when you discover asbestos include:
- Avoiding any direct contact
- Limiting your exposure to the area
- Trying not to damage the materials in any way
Some of the things you shouldn’t do if you discover asbestos in your home include:
- Disturb the materials by sanding, sawing, or drilling around them
- Sweep up any materials that fall to the floor with a vacuum or broom
- Collect a sample without training and without the proper protective gear
If you’re worried that you may have been exposed to asbestos in your home, the best thing you can do is to contact your doctor or a medical professional immediately. While there is no direct test that can check for asbestos exposure, your doctor will be able to perform other tests associated with lung function and health that can give you peace of mind.
Using Professionals to Stay Safe
The bottom line? You shouldn’t try to remove asbestos on your own. In some cases, you may be able to conceal it, but even that isn’t recommended. Again, removal should be a last resort and it should be done by a professional service.
If you’re concerned about asbestos in your Queensland home, we’ve got you covered. We are fully licensed, and experts in asbestos removal, no matter how big or small the job may be. Keep yourself and your family safe while upgrading your home or completing a project. Feel free to contact us today to confirm any asbestos present in your home and to start the removal process.