A Guide to Asbestos in your Home

CKervin By CKervin, 13th Jul 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Property & Real Estate>General

Over the past century, asbestos has been widely used throughout the world, and its use continues today. Asbestos use dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, where it was used in burial cloths, and today it is found in more than 3,500 different products and materials. Unfortunately, asbestos can be dangerous and a number of diseases have been linked to exposure both in the home and at work.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is found in the ground. There are 6 classifications of asbestos – chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.

Asbestos has a number of favourable properties, such as high heat and chemical resistance. This made it a popular additive for a number of materials, ranging from car brake pads to decorative ceiling textures.

It is now known that asbestos is a hazardous material, and is related to a number of fatal diseases. Asbestos poses a health risk when its microscopic fibres are inhaled or ingested.

Is Asbestos Banned?

The sale, use and importation of asbestos, and asbestos containing materials, is banned in more than 50 different countries, including all of the EU, Australia, South Africa and Japan. There are still a number of countries which continue to use asbestos containing products, including Canada, China, Russia and the USA, but many only use chrysotile (white asbestos).

In numerous countries where asbestos has not been banned, there are a number of campaigns to stop the use of asbestos.

Where do you find Asbestos?

Asbestos was regularly used as an additive to provide materials with strength, durability and increase resistance to chemicals and heat. As a result, it was heavily used in construction materials for both residential and commercial buildings.

Some common places asbestos is found include:
• Brake Pads
• Cement Roofing Sheets
• Pipe Lagging
• Loose Fill Insulation
• Soffits
• Cement Water Tanks
• Siding
• Textured Decorative Ceilings
• Vinyl Floor Tiles
• Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB)

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos kills more than 100,000 people every year throughout the world, with many more fatalities that are not reported. The widespread use of asbestos in the construction industry has resulted in many homes throughout the world now containing asbestos products.

Asbestos becomes dangerous when fibres are inhaled or digested. The fibres lodge into the lining of the lungs or gastrointestinal tract, where they can cause mutations in the cells.

There are a number of diseases attributed to asbestos, including mesothelioma (also known as asbestos cancer), asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and pleural thickening. Most symptoms do not appear in victims of these diseases for 20-50 years after exposure.

There a no cures for many asbestos related diseases, and mortality rates are high. It is often too late to help patients by the time symptoms appear and a diagnosis is made.

What does Asbestos look like?

As asbestos is often added to other materials, it can be extremely difficult to identify from visual inspection alone. There are a number of common places where asbestos is found in commercial and residential properties, such as pipe lagging and cement boiler flues, which can help you identify possible asbestos containing materials.

Some manufactures stamped their asbestos containing products with identifying marks, however this wasn’t regularly used throughout earlier years. Laboratory testing is often the best, and only, way to definitively identify asbestos in a property. Samples can be sent to an asbestos lab, where the presence and type of asbestos will be determined.

What options are available if I find asbestos?

If you find asbestos in your property, there are a number of possible management options, each with their own benefits and disadvantages. In most cases, an asbestos survey and assessment will be conducted to analyse any suspected asbestos containing materials, and then a management plan will be created if asbestos is found.

Asbestos Removal – Completely removing asbestos from a property is one of the best ways to ensure the safety of the occupants. As asbestos is a hazardous material, it is important that the correct procedures are followed and the waste is safely disposed of. Unless you are experienced and have the required safety equipment, it is advisable that you use a professional asbestos contractor.

Asbestos Encapsulation – Asbestos encapsulation is a cheaper alternative to asbestos removal. It is not suitable for all jobs or materials. Encapsulation involves coating the asbestos containing materials with a coating, such as resin, which ensures the fibres are encased.

Leaving Asbestos in place – Knowing the dangers associated with asbestos, leaving asbestos in place within your property may seem a little strange. In most cases, asbestos containing materials do not pose a health hazard. The asbestos must be in a good condition, with the dangerous fibres unable to escape and become airborne. Ongoing inspections will also be required to confirm the asbestos remains safe.

In some circumstances, a combination of two or all three of these management options may be used.


Asbestos, Asbestos Ceiling, Asbestos Dust, Asbestos Hazard, Asbestos Removal, Asbestos Siding, Asbestosis, Disease, Disease Prevention, Diseases, Home, Home Improvement, Homes, Properties, Property, Property Management

Meet the author

author avatar CKervin
I have worked in building and construction industries in Australia and the UK. I also enjoy photography.

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