Living with Asbestos

As perhaps 50% of buildings constructed between the 1800s and the 1990s contained asbestos as an additive in some of their building materials, many of us have unknowingly been living with the hazards which asbestos is now known to produce. Whilst the asbestos is relatively stable if the material it has been added to is stable, if that material is in any way disturbed or damaged, asbestos fibers start to be released into the atmosphere where they can be inhaled. Once these fibers are inhaled and reach the lungs they are trapped there, unable to be removed. In time, these fibers trapped in the lungs can be a contributing factor in someone starting to suffer from mesothelioma and cancer.

Once the dangers asbestos posed to health were realized, many countries banned their use in any construction materials and in the case of Australia, this ban took place in 2003. This means that in Australia, prior to 2003, perhaps as many as 50% of the buildings contained asbestos and the health hazards now associated with it. This means that now, prior to a building being demolished, if it was built before 2003, a company like which specializes in the removal of asbestos, is called in to first run tests for asbestos and then, if asbestos is present, remove that asbestos safely before the building is demolished in the normal way.

Because of the prevalent asbestos problem, some companies have started to specialize in asbestos removal and these companies can now test for the presence of asbestos, remove it if necessary and dispose of it safely in accordance with any national or local regulations. This requires special knowledge because there are in fact 6 different types of asbestos which can be found in buildings, 3 of which were intentionally used in order to improve the buildings insulation and the other 3 that may be present as contaminants. Each of these different asbestos types can have their own character, providing different hazards and therefore need different disposal instructions. The companies that specialize in this work, know the different types of asbestos along with the particular hazards they present and the different ways each must be disposed of safely.

For residents that live in houses that were built prior to 2003, the potential threat from asbestos used in the construction materials still exists and so these companies can also be called upon to do asbestos tests in homes. These tests are often the only way to know for sure if your family are at risk from the ill effects that asbestos can cause as the effects are often not noticed physically for as long as 3 years. Of course though, if you live in a home which was constructed after 2003, due to the government ban on asbestos, you can be assured that you and your family are not at any risk from an asbestos health hazard or, not in your home at least but how old is the building you work in?