Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is commonly found in building materials. Asbestos was widely used in the building industry due to its cheapness and heat-resistant qualities, but was banned completely in 2003 for health and safety reasons.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
If you inhale asbestos, the fibres can catch in your lungs and produce scarring, inflammation and lead to asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestos can take decades to manifest into a disease so the effects are often unknown for some time.
Asbestos only becomes a health risk when the asbestos fibres are inhaled. 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.
What does asbestos look like?
Many people ask what asbestos looks like. Unfortunately, asbestos takes so many different forms 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. It’s always best to seek professional advice when attempting to identify asbestos.
Different types of asbestos products
There are two types of asbestos products: friable and bonded.
Friable asbestos products are loose, easily-crumbled by hand and usually contain 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 fibre board
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
How to tell the difference between asbestos and fibre cement
Asbestos cement is no longer used in construction and has been replaced by fibre cement. If you have a property built after 1990, you won’t need to worry about asbestos cement. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two, but asbestos cement generally has a dimpled ‘golf-ball’ like appearance.
How to identify asbestos sheeting
Again, it can be hard to identify asbestos sheeting. Age is generally the first indicator, anything constructed in the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s has the potential to be asbestos. Some sheeting can be identified by the brand, but it’s best to get a professional to identify asbestos if you have any concerns at all.
Asbestos use in Australia
Before the mid-1980s, asbestos products were widely used throughout Australia.
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 find asbestos in your home, it's important not to disturb it. Unbroken asbestos products are usually considered safe as long as they stay in an undisturbed state.
Legally, you are permitted to remove asbestos yourself but considering the potential health risks involved, it is recommended you enlist the help of a professional. Specially trained asbestos removalists can remove and dispose of the asbestos safely, without risking exposure.
Asbestos at work
Employers are now required to ensure any asbestos in the workplace is clearly identified. Legislation also requires strict records to be kept. These include a register which must be regularly maintained by the employer, and a written asbestos management plan.
Shine Lawyers - Asbestos Compensation Experts
Shine Lawyers has a team of carefully selected specialists who are solely dedicated to asbestos and dust disease cases.
If you have been in contact with asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, our legal staff are available for an obligation-free consultation to inform you of your options.
Register with our free Australian Asbestos Register to record your asbestos exposure and assist in any future compensation claims that may arise.
Superannuation and Disability Insurance
If you are unable to work due to illness or injury you might be entitled to benefits through your superannuation or other insurance policies. We recommend speaking to one of our experts for a quick, obligation-free analysis of your situation to determine your rights and ability to make a claim..