Asbestos in the Home: How to Check for Asbestos

Asbestos in the Home: How to Check for Asbestos

Asbestos was first produced in the 1920s and was widely used in residential building materials until the late 1980s. Asbestos materials were cheap and durable, so they were commonly used in the building industry. Approximately one third of all homes in Australia that were built before 1990 contain asbestos products.

Asbestos material can be found in many areas of a home such as in the roof shingles and flashing, siding, insulation, pipe cement, internal and external wall cladding, ceilings (especially in the bathroom and laundry), carpet and tile underlays, vinyl sheet flooring, and guttering.   

Asbestos becomes very dangerous when it’s airborne. A DIY home renovation that includes drilling or sanding of an asbestos material can release asbestos fibres into the air which are invisible to the eye. When inhaled, asbestos can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Even small exposure is potentially dangerous.

When was asbestos banned in Australia?

The use and import of blue and brown asbestos and asbestos products in Australia was banned in the mid-1980s. Since the 1980’s, asbestos has not been used in domestic building materials. The manufacture, sale, installation, re-use and importation of white asbestos was banned in 2003. Cellulose fibres and non-asbestos fibres such as glass are now used in building materials instead of asbestos.

However, if your home was built or renovated before 1990, it’s possible that it contains some form of asbestos product, most likely cement sheeting. It is a good idea to inspect your property for any asbestos material.

How to check for asbestos?

Asbestos cannot be seen by the naked eye. Conducting a visual inspection of your home is not enough to check for any existing asbestos. It is also not recommended to disturb products that you believe may be asbestos. Instead, hire a certified asbestos professional to inspect your property. They can take material samples to a laboratory that is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities or NATA or call (03) 9274 8200. Running laboratory tests or even getting a pest and building inspection is important before you conduct a home renovation, maintenance or demolition of your house. 

What if asbestos is present?

The regulations covering disposal of asbestos are different in each state and territory. You can visit the Asbestos Awareness or Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency websites to see the legal requirements when removing asbestos in your area. 

Your asbestos removalist must be licensed. You can refer to the list of licensed asbestos removalists and demolition information in your state or territory to ensure safety. 

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