Home renovation can be one of the great ways to add value to your property – but there are many risks involved. Apart from the obvious OH&S hazards, like using dangerous equipment and working with electrics, home renovations come with a potentially lethal danger: asbestos exposure.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, became extremely popular among manufacturers and builders during the 1900s. Because of its unique properties, including tensile strength, fire resistance, and sound absorption, it became a cheap and easy way to solve many material design problems.
Unfortunately, asbestos has a less glamorous side… Those same fibers that work so well in many different applications can cause serious health problems. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause asbestosis (scarring of the lung tissue), pleural disease, lung cancer and mesothelioma. It is thought that even a single asbestos fiber can potentially develop into a life-threatening disease.
Tragically, over the years, asbestos was used in anything from oven mitts and shoe soles to airport runways and cigarette filters – but the most common use of this dangerous mineral was inside our own homes.
If you think that asbestos is a problem of the past – think again. The shocking reality is that over two-thirds of houses today, including ALL of those built before 1984, will have had asbestos used during their construction. That means that, unless you’re living in a new-built or have had a comprehensive asbestos audit and removal done on your home in the past, chances are the stuff may surround you.
But don’t panic: asbestos-containing materials are safe as long as they are well maintained. That means that it’s only when damaged, by external factors such as wеаthеr соndіtіоnѕ оr human interference, thаt asbestos duѕt іѕ produced, rеlеаѕіng thе dаngеrоuѕ fіbеrѕ іntо the air.
It does have serious implications for any work you do on your home though – whether it’s simple maintenance or a more long-term renovation project.
Common areas where you’re likely to find asbestos in your home include:
- Outer wall cladding
- Ceiling and wall panels
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Vinyl sheet backing or underlay
- Roof sheeting and cladding
- Insulation to pipes
- Electrical box linings and mounting boards
- Ventilators, sewer vent & flue pipes
- Support columns
- Laminated panels
- Adhesives & sealants
So what should you do if you live in a house built before 1990 and want to renovate? Hіrе аn аѕbеѕtоѕ еxреrt to соnduсt an аudіt оf уоur hоmе. Thеу wіll bе аblе tо іdеntіfу – аnd hеlр rеmоvе ѕаfеlу – аnу asbestos-containing mаtеrіаlѕ. NEVER attempt tо rеmоvе asbestos уоurѕеlf.