Homes in Australia built before 1990 could contain asbestos. Why is that so alarming? Asbestos is known to cause various health problems, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. In this article we’ll take a look at what you need to know about asbestos and what to do about it if you find out it is in your home.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that consists of miniscule fibres. When stirred up, they may produce dust particles that contain asbestos fibres. When these dust particles are breathed into the lungs, it heightens the risk of health issues from pleural plaques to mesothelioma.
Asbestos was frequently used in building materials from the 1940s to the late 1990s due to its fire-resistance, efficient insulation, and durability. It is no longer mined in Australia, nor has it been used or imported in Australian products since this discovery.
Asbestos Material Risks
The only time Asbestos poses any risk to one’s health is if the fibres are inhaled. The mere presence of this mineral in home building materials doesn’t pose health risks unless it is broken, disturbed, or deteriorated. Drilling, sanding, or cutting with power tools are potential risks for disturbing asbestos. The only way to know if any building materials in your home contain asbestos is through professional testing. Any household material that hasn’t been tested should be handled as if it does contain asbestos.
Asbestos Health Risks
People who develop asbestos-related health issues are usually those who have worked around materials that contain a lot of asbestos. Construction workers who haven’t participated in safety practices probably encountered higher than normal levels of asbestos fibres on the job. Not only might they have inhaled asbestos, but they could have also carried it home on their clothing, hair, and skin, possibly exposing their family to the fibres.
Diseases Associated with Asbestos Exposure
- Asbestosis is a disease that causes progressive scar tissue in the lungs, which hinders breathing.
- Pleural plaques is a health condition that presents with thick patches of scar tissue in the lining of the lungs.
- Lung cancer occurs over decades after being exposed to asbestos. People with asbestosis and those who smoke are at higher risk of lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma is a lung cancer that affects the lining of the lungs (the pleura), the diaphragm, and chest wall. Like lung cancer, mesothelioma develops over decades from exposure.
Asbestos Around the Home
Asbestos may be found in some of these materials:
- Fibre cement cladding and weatherboards
- Flexible building boards
- Artificial brick cladding
- Flue pipes
- Corrugated cement roofing
- Floor tiles
- Textured paint
Asbestos is also found in automotive parts up until 2004. Take care if you change your brakes, gaskets, or clutches and check the purchase date to be safe.
WARNING: Do not try to remove household or automotive materials if they have not been tested. The only way to be sure your household building materials are asbestos-free is to have them checked by professionals.
If you are renovating, decorating, or adding an extension to your home that was built before 1990, contact HouseCheck NSW for an asbestos report for your home here: https://www.housechecknsw.com.au/contact-us/. We will tell you if and where asbestos is present, and how to have it removed professionally.