You are about to discover the truth about asbestos in your home, and this report reveals the typical findings of a Hobart building and property inspector with over nineteen years and 20,137 inspections worth of experience in your area.
Asbestos and the need for asbestos removal in homes has been in the news again recently in Hobart and misinformation is causing unnecessary problems for Home Buyers and Sellers and the real estate industry as a whole. So I thought it was time you should all understand the truth about asbestos in your home.
Let me calm your fears with some facts…
The Truth is in Australia most homes built between the 1930’s and the late 1980’s will most likely have some materials that will contain some level of Asbestos. Albeit a small percentage in most cases. As a property inspector who also regularly conducts Asbestos Audits and testing, I get numerous hysterical comments like “I’m not going to buy the house if you find any asbestos at all” or “I know the eaves lining is asbestos, do I have to remove it”
This hysteria is caused by a lack of knowledge and misinformation about the facts. For example in the first quote above “I’m not going to buy the house if you find any asbestos at all”. However after a detailed inspection and an Asbestos Audit of the property for my client. I found the eaves lining were cement sheeting and it was all in a safe sealed, undisturbed condition. I did take a sample of the eaves lining for testing that come back positive and containing only between 1 to 10% Chrysotile and cellulose fibres.
- The fact is the eaves lining is not made of asbestos, only a small percentage of asbestos fibres. Asbestos was used as a bonding material to reinforce the cement sheet. The eaves linings were painted and sealed with no cracks, chips or breaks so it is absolutely safe if it is left undisturbed. If left in a safe sealed condition and properly maintained then this will never pose a health risk to anyone.
- Another fact you should be aware of :- Any material containing asbestos fibres is safe until you disturb it. The danger only lies in the instant you break it, cut it, drill it, sand it or damage it in any way, it may release some dangerous fibres that if breathed in (far enough to reach the very last minute cells of your lungs) can be dangerous to your health in the future. This is why it is so important to take proper precautions when working with these materials, or simply call in the professionals.
- Did you know for an asbestos fibre to reach the very minute cells of your lungs it must be 50 to 200 times thinner than the average human hair so you can’t see it with the naked eye or just by looking at the material.
- Did you know, some believe you are more exposed to breathing asbestos fibres walking down the street every day from the fibres released by the old car and truck brake pads!
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in the surface of the earth. It contains strong fibres that have excellent durability, fire resistance and insulating properties. Asbestos fibres are 50 to 200 times thinner than a human hair, it is invisible to the naked eye, can float in the air for long periods and can be breathed into the lungs.
In Australia asbestos was commonly used in the manufacture of many building materials used in the residential building industry between 1930s and the late 1980s before production was stopped. The use of all forms of asbestos has been banned in Australia since December 31st 2003. However this ban does not apply to asbestos materials installed prior to this date (e.g. asbestos materials in homes)
What Are The Possible Health Effects Of Asbestos?
Asbestos can cause health problems if breathed into the lungs. Most fibres are removed from your lungs by your body’s natural defences, however some fibres can remain in the lungs.
The possible health effects are;
- Asbestosis (progressive scarring of the lung tissue that impairs breathing)
- Lung Cancer
- Mesothelioma is a cancer of the linings around the lungs and abdomen.
- Non-cancerous diseases that effect the linings around the lungs and abdomen (commonly called “benign pleural diseases”)
These diseases can sometimes take up to 50 years to develop. There may be treatments for asbestos related diseases but currently no cures.
Is It Dangerous?
Current scientific and medical evidence supports the fact that simply living or working in a building that contains asbestos in not dangerous so long as the materials containing asbestos are in good condition (i.e. sealed, undamaged, undisturbed)
If the asbestos material is in good condition leave it alone!
To minimise the chance of anyone being exposed to asbestos it is important to first understand if you even have it in your home and there are a few basic steps to follow.
- Get an asbestos audit on your property by your local Independent Property Inspector. This will identify materials suspected of containing asbestos fibres and document its condition as undamaged and stable, or damaged and unstable.
- Sample testing is the only way to confirm if asbestos fibres are present in the material. Testing will also identify a percentage margin in the sample and the type of asbestos
- Only when you are armed with this information can you make any informed decision whether to leave it alone, seal it, or remove it.
- If you elect to remove it, you must check with the local laws in your state as the laws for safety procedures and removal may vary from state to state.
- Do you know there are alternatives to removing the material containing asbestos (e.g. painting or sealing, covering with a non-asbestos material)?
- If in any doubt, consult your local independent property inspector.
There are three main types of asbestos used in building materials. (The concentration varies greatly in different materials)
- Chrysotile or white asbestos
- Amosite or brown asbestos
- Crocidolite or blue asbestos
Examples Of Materials Suspected Of Containing Asbestos
Cement sheet products, historically contained up to 15% asbestos fibres. This is not an exhaustive list but intended as a guide only.
- Flat or corrugated wall and roof sheeting (“fibro”)
- Roof shingles
- Flexible building boards (e.g. Villaboard, Hardiflex, Wundaboard, Flexiboard)
- Floor sheeting
- Vinyl floor tiles and sheeting
- Asbestos-backed vinyl and millboard underlay
- Water, drainage and flue pipes
- Backing for imitation brickboard cladding
- Backing panels in switchboards or meter boards
- Some Mastics and bitumen paints and materials
- Heat shields around wall ovens
- Some wall and ceiling insulation products.
- Sprayed insulation for acoustic walls and ceiling
- Tilux sheeting in place of ceramic tiles in bathrooms.
- Broken cement sheeting was commonly used as a packing material under bearers and joists
- Heat blocks in electric heat banks
- Asbestos felt type underlays
- Heat resistant laminates (e.g. Formica)
- Asbestos gaskets and rope in wood heater and oven doors also pipe lagging
Identifying materials suspected of containing asbestos is a specialised field and takes considerable experience, education and training. If you are in any doubt at all please call us before you touch it.
We recommend you contact your local Independent Property Inspector
Just a quick note to summarise.
After ten years of inspecting over 12,137 homes in this area, I can tell you the vast majority (my best guess is 98%) of homes that have materials suspected of containing asbestos are all in a safe and undisturbed condition, and if left that way will pose absolutely no threat to the occupant’s health, whether they are a tenant or the property owner.
The simple truth is, yes, most homes built between the 1930’s and the late 1980’s will have some materials that may contain some small level of asbestos fibres…
…but remain in a safe sealed condition and should not be a deterrent to buying a home.
We all live with asbestos and many other dangers around us every day, (for example; we all know electricity will kill you instantly but we don’t remove it from our homes, we simply treat it with the respect it demands) and if we continue to treat asbestos with due respect and take any appropriate action when needed I believe we can all live long and fruitful lives.
If, however, asbestos is still concern for you after reading this article, there are many professionals who can identify it and safely remove it so you can still own the house of your dreams.