About Asbestos

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Asbestos: Why you should be aware

Asbestos is a word that is quite familiar to many people. People will naturally associate the word asbestos to health risks and death. Many people have lost their lives because of this substance. News has reported many accidents related to this dangerous material. To get familiar with asbestos, the following are some important information about asbestos from A to Z.

All about Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral occurred naturally. It has been mined and also manufactured for use in various forms. The material has been largely used in the construction industry due to its durability, strength, and fire resistant properties.

The word asbestos itself comes from a Greek word “ἄσβεστος”. The meaning of the term is inextinguishable or unquenchable. It refers to the six groups of mineral, which is classified into two Serpentine and Amphibole.



The difference between Serpentine and Amphibole

So, what is the difference? The difference between those two is in appearance. The shape of serpentine is curly. The member that belongs to this type is only chrysotile. On the other hand, amphibole’s fibre looks more like a needle, straight and thin. Compared to Serpentine that only has one member, Amphibole has five members: crocidolite, amosite, actinolite, tremolite and anthophyllite.


Types of Asbestos: Friable and Non-Friable asbestos

Asbestos used in construction and buildings have two main types including friable or loosely bound asbestos and non-friable or tightly bound asbestos.


1. Bonded Asbestos or Non-Friable

It is mostly found in houses. The material is very strong and solid. It is composed of a bonding substance like cement and up to 10-15% of asbestos of the total production. Also, it is commonly known as asbestos cement, Fibro or AC sheeting. The material does not have the tendency to be airborne unless it is disturbed. The most common examples of non-friable asbestos including:

  • Asbestos cement (AC) products
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • AC sheet
  • Bitumen-based waterproofing


2. Friable Asbestos

This type of asbestos is mostly found in industrial and commercial buildings for soundproofing, insulations and fireproofing. The term refers to the material that can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by the hand power when it is dry. Also, it can become airborne. The most common examples of this type including:

  • Pipe lagging
  • Boiler insulation
  • Fire retardant material on steel work
  • Sprayed insulation

This material can also be identified in hot water systems, stoves, and linoleum and vinyl coverings. It contains 100% asbestos.


History of Asbestos in Australia

When did people start to use this material in Australia? Just before the late 1800s, the friable products were introduced and used to the industrial and commercial settings. Due to its remarkable quality for fireproofing, soundproofing, and insulation both commercial and industrial sector used this substance. Houses used this substance as well. It is used as building construction and applied to residential homes that were constructed before 1990.


Australia started to manufacture AC materials in about 1920s. Until the late 1980s, the material continued to be used as building material for construction industries.


Australia established the banning of the import, use including the product of blue and brown asbestos in the mid-1980s. The full ban on produce, use, reuse, transport, storage or sale of all kinds of asbestos was implemented in December 2003.


The Effects of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs)

Various deadly diseases are generated by ACMs. The diseases include lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. It will affect your health as you are exposed to its hazardous fibres. As soon as they are inhaled, the fibres will get into your respiratory system. The fibres are very solid, so they are difficult to leave the body once inhaled. Instead of leaving the body, they will reside in the respiratory system and cause extreme harmful disease.

The exposure of airborne fibres will cause more effects to the smokers. They have a high chance of being infected with lung cancer when exposed.


Identification of ACMs at Home

ACMs can be identified in almost every part of the house. For houses built before 1990, you can locate them installed on your roof, living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, garage or a dog kennel.

There are 3000 products of asbestos based on the estimation. Among the products that are possible to be found in residential homes are:

  • Roofing
  • Eaves
  • Fencing
  • Wall cladding
  • Thermal boards around fireplaces
  • Flue or water pipes
  • Carpet underlay
  • Floor tiles and vinyl flooring backing
  • Low-density asbestos fibreboard
  • Decorative ceiling coatings, textured paints
  • Insulation on hot-water pipes, stoves and domestic heater
  • Filler and plaster sealant
  • Some adhesive products



Asbestos Testing

Asbestos testing is the only possible way to identify the material in a building. It will identify the location as well as the type of ACM within a house.

The steps including collecting the samples and sending the samples to a laboratory accredited by NATA. The result of the testing will be reported in the asbestos register. Later, it will be very handy if you need to establish a management plan of asbestos, also known as the AMP.


Managing ACMs

For buildings identified with this material, the owner will be required to have an AMP. It will be very useful when controlling and managing fibrous materials. Houses built after December 2003, an AMP is not required.

The AMP must include the location, decision relating to the management of ACMs, mechanism in dealing with the material, update, review and the access for related people.


Perfect Timing for Asbestos Removal

When a building is confirmed having installed with any fibrous product, that is the right time to toss them out. It is a long-term solution for any ACM problem. The removal needs to be conducted by a qualified certificate-holder removalist. Before hiring any removalist, it is suggested to check whether the removalist holds an accredited licence A or B removalist who has attended many trainings.


How and Where to Dispose of ACMs

Any fibrous materials are required to be disposed of carefully because they pose a health risk. The materials need to be packed carefully, suggested double packed, sealed and then labelled as asbestos before transporting them to a legal landfill site.

There is a landfill for domestic and commercial. The domestic is for the ACM produced by a homeowner who performs DIY. Meanwhile, the commercial can only receipt ACMs from the commercial and industrial resource.


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