Warning:- Asbestos can be found in many materials around a home.
I received a call from a renovator (we’ll call him John) who had found cement sheeting in a wall he wanted to remove during the renovation. To John’s credit he had enough knowledge to call us in to identify if it was dangerous or not and seek advice on what to do if there was asbestos found.
We made arrangements to meet at the property the following morning and possibly take a sample of the suspect sheeting for testing.
To my absolute horror, I arrived at 10:30 AM to find John using a spade to chip off the old vinyl floor tiles on the kitchen and dining room floors, with his 5 year old son using his toy wheel barrow to load the broken tile pieces, wheel them across the dining room and throw them out the window on the rubbish pile below. John and his son had already completed the removal of the same tiles from the bathroom, toilet and laundry floors the previous day.
John obviously had no idea the floor tiles may contain high levels of asbestos fibres.
Sorry, but the story gets worse. On the other side of the dining room his wife sat feeding their seven month old baby. Both had been present in the room all morning and the previous day. In his haste to get the renovation work underway John may have unknowingly exposed his whole family to high levels of asbestos fibres.
I immediately told them of the possible danger and we evacuated the house. Using proper protective clothing and a breathing mask I re-entered the house and took samples of all the various materials I suspected may contain asbestos. The list included the Tilux shower linings, laundry wall and ceiling linings and cover strips, the vinyl floor tiles and cement sheet backing, the cement sheet that lined the wall oven cabinet, and the old carpet underlay. All the samples were submitted for testing by 11:30 AM and the laboratory results email to me by 4:15 that afternoon.
Although from experience I thought all samples tested would come back with a positive reading, it was definitely not the news I was keen to deliver.
In fact most samples did test positive for Chrysotile (white asbestos) and some also had a small content of Amosite (brown asbestos). But the really disturbing fact was the floor tiles tested very high 50 to 75% of Crocidolite which is the blue asbestos (widely recognised as the most dangerous asbestos of them all).
I called John to confirm the test results, understandably he was devastated to the point that he was physically sick.
In his haste to get the renovation work underway so he could move his family into their new home, John had unknowingly exposed his whole family to high levels of asbestos fibres. And now he has to wait for up to 40 or 50 years to see if he in fact has condemned his family to a slow horrible death from an asbestos related disease.
If there is a moral to this story, it must be to get a professional Asbestos Audit completed before you renovate.