Asbestos related disease in Queensland is likely to rise over coming years as residents start to pay the price for unsafe renovation practices during previous years. The boom in renovation television shows, the logistics of moving, a weak property market and the credit crunch have all conspired to create the perfect storm and prompted home owners to renovate rather than buy. Seeking to improve their lot by DIY renovating – some have placed themselves at risk by not following safe best practice when dealing with asbestos in the home. Although public awareness on the dangers of asbestos has increased markedly over recent years, there is still a lack of understanding and some urban myths associated with the dangers of products that we have all grown up innocently with and now must consider potentially deadly.
Mesothelioma and other cancers are to be avoided at all costs and perhaps this should be kept front of mind when allocating a realistic budget for the cost of asbestos removal. There can also be severe legal and financial implications if you are found to be negligent in your actions and these acts impact upon neighbours during the course of any DIY asbestos removal. In short, be very careful. If your property was (substantially) built before 1990, it is likely that you have asbestos and almost certainly have asbestos if your house was build before 1987. The good news is that this need not be a problem as long as you are aware of the implications if you disturb it in any way and take suitable precautions.
I personally had an experience with a licensed asbestos removal company several years ago in which, having taped up the doors and sealed the room, they wanted to come out halfway through the job because they were too hot! As you can imagine, I was not impressed with this and flatly refused to let them out. Harsh perhaps, but I knew (and so did they presumably) that they would contaminate the rest of the house and negate the whole project if I had opened the door at that point. They stayed in and finished the job, cleaned up and sprayed the room. I suppose this clearly demonstrates the human factor when doing these critical projects and also underlines the importance of arming yourself with the knowledge to protect your family.
What is Asbestos – Asbestos Products
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral which has heat resistive properties and great strength when combined with other additives. Asbestos was mined and used extensively in the manufacture of building products such as – fibre cement sheeting, insulation, pipes, pipe lagging, plaster, linoleum, and various heat resistant products. Australia outlawed the use of asbestos in the mid eighties but other countries have since only partially done so.
Bonded or non-friable, asbestos is asbestos that is bonded (mixed and hardened) with other materials like cement of other bonding agents and is considered safe unless cut, broken, drilled or dropped. This is class A asbestos for licensing purposes.
Friable Asbestos is deemed to be asbestos product that can be crushed or powdered in the hand by the hand and is very dangerous as particles can readily become airborne. B class license is required to remove these hazardous products.
The most dangerous thing about asbestos is it’s ability to break down into microscopic, hook shaped fibres that lodge in the lungs and cause surrounding tissue to die.It should be noted that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Safe Removal of Asbestos
At this time the Queensland Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos currently allows individuals to remove up to a maximum of 10 square metres of bonded asbestos from their property without a license but strict regulations govern both asbestos removal methods and asbestos disposal. It is advisable to check prior to starting a project.
Contractors require a license to remove asbestos.
Working With Asbestos
Never use power tools to cut asbestos – use a hand saw which allows surfaces to be sprayed and wet down while cutting.
Always wear full disposable protective coveralls (with hood) including boot protectors, PS2 respirator, and gloves. Tape any loose areas like wrists.
If drilling asbestos use duct tape, spray water and/or cup cover filled with shaving cream to stop dust.
Always seal off any cut areas of asbestos with PVA Glue to bind the service together. Spray rough areas to be relined (stud walls etc) with 1 part PVA to 4 parts water to
glue down any dust. A garden pump spay works well. This both glues any remaining asbestos fibres to the surface and also encapsulates the asbestos dust rendering it less harmful.
Never use a vacuum cleaner for clean-up. Instead use damp rags and plenty of sprayed water to keep the particles out of the air.
When moving a large area of asbestos remove the whole sheet by punching nails through and lifting the sheet off intact.
Always seal off the area you are removing asbestos from and keep it sealed until the job is completed.
Double bag any asbestos and contaminated material in a bag marked as Asbestos Waste (including you coveralls etc.) on completion making sure you keep your mask on until last. Larger pieces can be double wrapped in heavy duty black plastic.
Always use a special lined asbestos skip from your local contractor and never place asbestos in a normal skip or rubbish bin.
This video demonstrates the US way of doing things. A real HAZMAT exercise.