Asbestos Information

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a generic term for a number of fibrous silicate rock-forming minerals. As a naturally occurring rock fibre asbestos is mined then broken down form mineral clumps into groups of loose fibres.

Airborne asbestos fibres are small, odourless and tasteless. it presents a ealth risk when it crumbles and the fine fibres are breathed into the lungs.

Asbestos fibres have a very high tensile strength and are known for their resistance to heat, fire, acids, alkalis, and corrosion.

Where can it be Found?

Buildings, houses and flats erected before the mid 1980s may contain asbestos. Examples of where asbestos can be commonly found in buildings include:

  • Fibro sheeting (commonly found in older garages, bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and external walls)
  • Roofs (including eaves and gables)
  • Vinyl tiles and backing
  • Guttering
  • Drainage and flue pipes
  • Electrical metering boards
  • Insulation in space and water heaters and asociated pipe work
  • Packing material in floor joists

Other Hazardous Substances you may find

A number of other substances may be present particularly in older buildings that may present health risks if disturbed during renovation or demolition work including but not limited to:

  • Lead paint (often in paints used in houses built prior to 1970)
  • Synthetic Mineral Fibres (used for thermal and acoustic insulation, and reinforcing agents)
  • PCB’s(found in older fluorescent light fittings, transformers and capacitors)

Removal and Handling of Asbestos

A safe home means a safe family and a safe community, which is why it is important that home renovators find out what they are dealing with before they start building and renovating.

One of the things to be on the lookout for is asbestos, particularly if you are about to launch into home improvements and your home was built or renovated before the mid 1980's. Up to that time, it is very likely that your home will have some building materials that contain asbestos.

It is dangerous when people renovate and start cutting, sanding, drilling, grinding or pulling up materials that contain asbestos. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. You should seek out the right information via http://www.asbestosawareness.com.au/  before you reach for the power tools and disturb old building materials, potentially releasing harmful dust.

Asbestos is often found in building materials such as fibro sheeting or flooring and it was also used for roofing, eaves and shingles, which generally do not pose a risk if left alone. It's when the sheets start to weather or break that harmful fibres can be released.

It's also important to understand that, due to its durability and insulating properties, asbestos can often be found around the pipes behind radiators or wood burning stoves, and in electricity meter boxes.

Spring and the summer holidays are traditionally the times when people choose to finish off some of those lingering home projects and it is usually the time when people turn their minds to home renovation. If you're thinking renovation, you must think asbestos.

It is important to get advice about how to identify, remove and handle asbestos and hazardous substances properly. Special care and management is rneeded even for small renovation jobs that don't require a development application.

Cobar Shire Council recommends you to:

  • Treat all fibro sheets as if they contain asbestos unless tested
  • Use a licensed asbestos removal contractor to remove all materials containing asbestos.

Notifying Neighbours of Proposed Asbestos Removal Works

Prior to undertaking any asbestos removal works, Council recommends that you notify your neighbours of the commencement and duration of those works.

Whilst proper asbestos removal practices should ensure neighbours are not placed at any significant risk neighbours should still be notified of the works as they may wish to take extra precautions such as: 

  • minimising outdoor activities;
  • not hang washing on outdoor lines;
  • closing external doors and windows; and
  • avoiding air conditioners that introduce air from outside into the home.

Disposing of Asbestos

Cobar Shire Council must be contacted before asbestos products are taken to Council’s Landfill for the protection of workers. Call 02 6836 5888 for more information.

The dumping of asbestos in any place that is not licensed to receive asbestos waste is an offence that carries a penalty of up to $5000 under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

What to do if you find Asbestos in your Home?

If asbestos containing material is in a sound condition and left undisturbed it generally will not present a significant health risk. If asbestos fibres remain firmly bound in a solid cement sheet or structure such as in ‘fibro’ sheeting, you do not usually need to remove the fibro or even coat it.

If you have materials in your home you suspect may contain asbestos and are concerned with potential health risks Cobar Shire Council recommends you contact an Occupational Hygienist or other qualified consultant to sample and analyse the material.

If the material does contain asbestos these qualified persons can also provide advice on how to manage the risks associated with the material.

What can be the heath impacts from exposure to Asbestos?

Airborne asbestos fibres are small, odourless and tasteless. It presents a health risk when it crumbles and the fine fibres are breathed into the lungs.

If inhaled airborne asbestos fibres cling to the respiratory system, including the lining of the lungs and inner vacity tissue. There are three major lung conditions traced directly to asbestos exposure including mesothelioma, pleural disease and asbestosis.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lung lining. It can result from low-level exposure to asbestos and can take 30 to 45 years to develop after initial exposure. It is an agressive and painful cancer and sufferers rarely live longer than 12 to 18 months.

A dull, aching chest pain and shortness of breath are the early symptoms, followed by abdominal pain, abdominal swelling and weight loss.

Lung cancer

Cancer of the bronchial tubes, lungs and alveoli can develop after exposure to asbestos. Those who have been exposed to asbestos and who have smoked run a much greater risk of getting lung cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer include an irrative cough with increasing sputum followed by blood-tinged sputum, coughing up blood, chest pains and chest infections.

Pleural disease

Inflammation and irritation of outer lining of the lung, the pleura. The pleura stiffens and thickeds widely (diffused thickening) or in patches (plaques) and can fill with fluid. This thickening can restrict breathing.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a chronic chest disease caused by inhalation of high concentrations of asbestos fibres. The condition can develop 10 to 20 years after initial exposure. Asbestos fibres initially damage cell membranes in the lungs and as a result the lung tissue becomes hardened and scars.

Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath after exercise, persistent coughing, chest pain, phlegm, lung infections, pulmonary hypertension and heart failure. Early abornmalitieis of asbestosis are difficult to detect in a lung X-ray however, as the disease progresses the X-ray is characterised by a clougy, ground glass appearance.

Further Information

Please use the links below to access or download further information.

Asbestos Awareness Website:

http://www.asbestosawareness.com.au/

The NSW Government website on Asbestos Information:

http://www.safework.nsw.gov.au

The NSW Government has produced a safety checklist, Fibro and Asbestos - First Steps Checklist:

http://www.safework.nsw.gov.au

SafeWork NSW Guide to Working with Asbestos:

http://www.safework.nsw.gov.au

Information on Mesothelioma:

https://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/