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How to spot asbestos in your home and what to do

We have all heard about the deadly nature of asbestos, but why is asbestos dangerous and in this day and age, do you still need to be concerned?

In this blog we’ll discuss how to identify asbestos in the home and what steps you should take if you believed you’ve been exposed.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is commonly found in building materials. Before the mid-1980s, asbestos products were widely used throughout Australia in the building industry, as it was inexpensive and had heat-resistant qualities.

Over the decades it was discovered how deadly asbestos can be, so it was banned completely in all its forms in Australia in 2003.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

If you inhale asbestos, the fibres can catch in your lungs and produce scarring, inflammation and lead to serious diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Alarmingly, asbestos exposure can take decades to manifest into a disease, so the effects can go undetected for some time. Exposure to asbestos can happen in a variety of ways including secondary contact or sources, such as being exposed to clothes covered in asbestos fibres or from being near construction / renovation sites. So, understanding how to spot asbestos early is essential.

Solid asbestos products, such as asbestos cement, pose no threat if they are undisturbed. However, if the product is damaged or crumbling, fibres can be released into the air. This is common for homes built in the 1960s to the 1980s when they need major repair or replacements, the risk of asbestos exposure increases.

Different types of asbestos products

There are two types of asbestos products: friable and bonded.

Friable asbestos products

Friable asbestos products are loose and easily-crumbled by hand; usually containing high levels of asbestos. This means the asbestos fibres can become airborne, making it extremely dangerous for people nearby. Friable asbestos products include:

  • Heat resistant fabrics
  • Spray-on insulation and soundproofing
  • Low-density fibreboard

Bonded asbestos products

Bonded asbestos products are solid and non-friable. They are made by combining a small proportion of asbestos with a bonding compound such as cement. Bonded asbestos products include:

  • Roofing, eaves
  • Wall cladding
  • Fencing

How to spot asbestos in the home

If your home was built after 1990, it's unlikely that asbestos products were used. However, a total ban on asbestos wasn't introduced until the end of 2003. If you do spot asbestos in your home, it's important not to disturb it. Unbroken asbestos products are usually considered safe as long as they remain undisturbed.

Legally you are permitted to remove asbestos yourself (in some circumstances) but considering the potential health risks involved, it’s strongly recommended you enlist the help of a professional. Specially trained asbestos removalists can locate, remove and dispose of the asbestos safely, without risking exposure to you or your family.

What does asbestos look like?

Many people are unsure of what asbestos looks like and how to spot it. Unfortunately, asbestos comes in so many different forms and has so many different uses, that it can be impossible to tell what is asbestos and what’s not.

Being a microscopic fibre, it’s not identifiable to the human eye. If you suspect that you have asbestos in your home, you should seek professional advice when attempting to identify it. Only scientific testing of a material sample by an accredited National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) asbestos testing laboratory can confirm the presence of asbestos.

Most importantly, if you suspect you may have any asbestos in your home, don’t:

  • cut it or drill it
  • saw or sand it
  • scrape or scrub it
  • dismantle, destroy or dump it.

What you should do if you have been exposed?

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos fibres, it’s important to speak with your GP to discuss the potential medical risks associated with exposure.

Whether you were exposed at home or in the workplace, and develop a disease which is related to that exposure, you may be eligible for compensation to help you access medical treatment and support for you and your family. Strict time limitations apply, so it’s important you seek legal advice from someone who understands your situation. Our Dust Disease compensation claim experts specially run these types of claims and have a proven track record in obtaining results for our clients, offering our services with a no win, no fee guarantee.

Contact us today to find out more about your rights and entitlements.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: November 18, 2021.

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