How Asbestos Changed the Construction Industry Forever
Since the late 1800s, friable asbestos products have been commonly used for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation in both a commercial and industrial capacity in Australia. Some friable and asbestos products were also used in households and are likely to be found in houses that were built before 1990 and therefore have the possibility to still contain asbestos related materials.
In Australia, asbestos in cement products were first manufactured in the 1920s and were mostly used for residential buildings from the 1940s until the 1980s. It was in the 80s that the products were phased out and substituted for asbestos-free products. In 2003 there was finally an entire ban on the manufacturing, use, importing, transport, storage, sale and reuse of all forms of asbestos materials Australia wide.
This ban has ceased all production of asbestos products in Australia. However, due to the magnitude in which asbestos was originally used, many houses still have the problem of existing asbestos products. Australian company GBAR encourages construction professionals in the commercial and industrial industries to do their due diligence before commencing construction – particularly on sites that are known to be constructed between 1970 and 1990.
As a general rule of thumb, if your house was built before the mid 1980s, or between the mid 1980s and 1990 it is likely that it has asbestos containing products. And if your home was built after 1990 it is unlikely that it has asbestos relating products – although, the ban was not enforced until 2003 and it is not guaranteed that a home is free of asbestos related materials if it was built between 1990 and 2003.
The type of asbestos containing products used in homes include:
Bonded asbestos products – majority of asbestos containing products used in the construction of homes were bonded asbestos cement materials such as
- Exterior and interior wall cladding
- Shingles and siding
- Thermal boards surrounding fireplaces
- Water pipes
Friable asbestos products – these friable (meaning it can be crushed, crumbled, pulverized or turned to power with little force) may also be found in houses
- Loose fill roofing insulation
- Spray on insulation and soundproofing
- Asbestos-rope door gaskets in wood stoves
- Low-density asbestos fibre board
- Insulation on hot water pipes, domestic heaters and stoves
- Backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
- Heat resistant fabrics
- Carpet underlay
- Textured paints and decorative ceiling coatings
- Brick and plaster sealants, fillers and adhesive products
- Hail, fire damaged or badly weathered asbestos cement materials
Undisturbed asbestos cement materials in good condition are not harmful and do not pose a health risk as the fibres are still bonded together in solid cement.
However, when the materials are damaged, crumbling and become friable, the asbestos fibres are released into the air. Being in the vicinity of friable asbestos materials means you are at risk of asbestos exposure, which is incredibly dangerous for your health.
Other friable asbestos products like spray on insulation and asbestos rope gaskets produce airborne fibres during normal use and aging. Any asbestos materials being disturbed by breaking, cutting, drilling, sanding or crumbling must be carefully managed and removed to prevent the release of toxic fibres into the air, and in turn, exposure to the toxicity of asbestos.