Property 101: Asbestos and what you need to know

Property 101: Asbestos and what you need to know
Property 101: Asbestos and what you need to know

GUEST OBSERVER

Asbestos is the generic term for a number of fibrous silicate minerals. Products made from asbestos cement - a bonded asbestos material - include fibro sheeting (flat and profiled) guttering and downpipes, as well as other pipes for water, drainage or flues, corrugated roofing sheets, roofing shingles and guttering. 

WHY WAS ASBESTOS USED IN HOMES?

Asbestos materials were cheap and durable and after World War II until 1954 it was used extensively in the building industry. In New South Wales it's estimated 52 percent of all houses, (approx. 70,000 houses), were built using it. Up till the 1960s, 25 percent of all new housing was clad in asbestos cement in Australia and around 20 percent of all domestic roofs of that period contained asbestos. In Victoria, the percentage was higher and approx. 98 percent of homes constructed before 1976 contained asbestos products. 

IS ASBESTOS STILL USED?

The good news is NO. Asbestos has not been used in domestic building materials since the 1980s, however, it was not until 31 December, 2003, that the use of asbestos and all products containing asbestos was banned throughout Australia. It is now illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use asbestos products.

Please note: the ban does not apply to asbestos installed prior to this date and if your home contains asbestos you are not required to remove it, but if you do then you must follow safety guidelines and you cannot dump any type of asbestos material in a general waste disposal area.

HEALTH RISKS

The health risks associated with working in the asbestos industry and being exposed to asbestos products through occupational, environmental and secondhand factors are now well known and documented and include Cancer; Mesothelioma, Asbestosis and other related serious conditions.

It is strongly recommended before starting to undertake any type of renovation on a house built before the late 1980's that absolute caution be observed as it can potentially have asbestos containing materials like fibro, and exposure to broken asbestos by breathing in asbestos fibers which are toxic can be serious especially for anyone who smokes and young children.

RENOVATING - WHERE WOULD I FIND ASBESTOS IN A HOUSE?

It is very hard to identify asbestos products in a house just by looking at them. Below is a list of potential locations where asbestos was used in houses built or renovated before the late 1980's ...

• Chimney flues
• Flat, patterned or corrugated wall and roof sheeting
• Lining under eaves
• Lagging on hot water pipes
• Vinyl floor tiles and backing to cushion tile and vinyl flooring
• Internal and external walls
• Imitation brick or weatherboard cladding
• Insulation in wood heaters
• Asbestos cement sheeting beneath heater hearths
• Electrical meter boards
• Garages & carports
• Garden sheds
• Dog kennels


If you suspect there could be asbestos materials - the only way to be certain is to have a sample of the material analysed by a laboratory - DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE IT OR BREAK IT UP call in an expert first and contact NATA – The National Association of Testing Authorities for an analytical laboratory in your area that is accredited to identify asbestos, visit NATA website: www.nata.asn.au

Confirmation should be carried out before any general maintenance, renovation or demolition activities proceed. Following the severe thunderstorms and tornado that lashed Kurnell, NSW last December, 2015 there was a trail of debris and fears of airborne asbestos. 

Home owners found themselves in a devastated condition with experts assessing the area to identify hazardous materials, such as asbestos products, because of the age of the houses many built before 1987. Authorities warned residents of the risks and advised them not to disturb the debris and to wear a P2 mask and protective clothing as a precaution before entering the ruins of their homes. This was very sad for the whole community and underscored the high danger of asbestos materials when they are disturbed and broken. 

As a Conveyancer I always alert my client who is considering purchasing a home built prior to the late 1980's of the potential that the house may contain asbestos materials and I ensure the client understands the importance of checking for asbestos issues through a building report before going ahead. 

A good suggestion I make to the client is to meet with P&B Inspectors while they are conducting their inspections for questions about asbestos, extensions without Council approval or other matter of material concern before signing a contract and tendering a Deposit. 

Garth Brown is an accountant and certified conveyancer with Brown and Brown Conveyancing and can be contacted here.

Tags: 
building Asbestos

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