Asbestos was a common building material during the 1940s-1980s. Australia was a huge user of the material due to it’s affordability and durability. The largest manufacturer was James Hardie & Co, and it was commonly called Fibro cement sheeting. The asbestos fibres were bonded to cement particles for strength and could mould into any number of shapes, including pipework, flat sheets, and corrugated sheets.
Because of the hardiness and waterproofing qualities of asbestos, areas of the building prone to wet conditions like bathrooms, toilets and laundries may have asbestos sheeting or asbestos vinyl tiles in the walls and floors. In the same theory, pipes throughout the building that carried water and sewage may also contain asbestos.
There are two types of asbestos; non-friable asbestos and friable asbestos. Non-friable asbestos is the most common type of asbestos containing material (ACM) and it’s usually bonded with materials like cement, for example fibre cement sheeting such as eaves (suffeats) or wall boards. Friable asbestos is commonly found in fire-proofing or acoustic insulation materials and is more likely to become airborne if disturbed.
The biggest risk in the use of asbestos is the airborne fibres when asbestos is damaged or over time eroded. So if you have a broken sheet or a hole, it’s recommended to paint over the top of this to avoid any particles getting loose.
In certain states, it is prohibited to use a pressure cleaner on asbestos as the fibres can be spread quite dramatically.
Asbestos fibres can get into a person’s lungs and sometimes lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer – which can all be fatal. Due to the significant risks posed by exposure to asbestos fibres and work with asbestos, be it renovating or removing must be treated with respect and often a professional certified company should be used.
I’m not an asbestos expert, far from it, but if you’d like any further information or advice on what to do, feel free to get in touch or visit the Queensland Government Website