Throughout the mid-1900’s, builders and contractors across Australia utilised non-friable asbestos as a component of building materials such as cement, wall sheeting, ceiling sheet, and vinyl floor tiles. In some commercial spaces, loosely bound asbestos was used as a lightweight solution for insulation, fireproofing, and soundproofing. The material was seen as an extremely versatile and useful product because it was fire resistant, flexible, lightweight, provided insulation, and was wildly affordable.
Path to Banning Asbestos
As health concerns related to asbestos were discovered and brought to light in the mid 1930’s through 1960’s, those in the construction and building industry began to discontinue use of the material. During this time it became apparent that asbestos in a home or office is the cause of a number of health and safety concerns. By the 1980’s, an active movement was enacted to eradicate asbestos from all materials in residential and commercial spaces.
In 1989 the Australian government banned the use of asbestos in building materials. Therefore, any home built before 1990 is at risk of having asbestos in some form within the walls, floors, or ceilings. Around this time, mining of asbestos was also banned. Finally, by 2004 it was made illegal to use asbestos in any capacity. Despite the bans, materials with asbestos remain in many buildings built before these necessary regulations were passed.
The serious health risks imposed by asbestos are more common in workers and miners whose occupations required daily interaction and contact with the mineral. However, the various diseases that result from inhalation of asbestos fibres can affect occupants of residential properties and commercial buildings where asbestos was used. As the most common diseases associated with asbestos result from inhalation of asbestos fibres, it is believed that intact asbestos does not pose a significant health risk to occupants. However, many property owners take measures to remove any materials containing asbestos from their home, office, or other commercial space, regardless of the form it comes in.
Removal of Asbestos
While it is prudent to remove asbestos in the home or commercial building, the very act of dismantling and removing asbestos is dangerous and poses risks. In the Melbourne area, there are experienced specialists, such as the reliable professionals at PROAS, who are trained and educated on the proper removal of asbestos and materials containing the toxic mineral. Hiring professionals with the appropriate licences (a class A licence is required for removal of fibrous asbestos and a class B licence for non-fibrous materials) and training protects your family, neighbours, and yourself during the process.
The removal of these materials requires protective gear such as gloves, respirator masks, and protective overalls. Asbestos fibres can puncture the skin or seep into the lungs, which makes proper protection extremely important. You will notice that professionals dealing with the removal of asbestos also work in well-ventilated areas. It is essential that any and all asbestos materials removed from the building be properly disposed of in accordance with Australian and Victorian laws.