“It’s a fact that suburbs like Mt Gravatt have a lot of houses with asbestos. All houses built before 1990 are likely to have some asbestos in them,” Rob Berry, a local asbestos expert, warns.

In Australia, the total ban on any activity involving asbestos products became effective in December 2003.  Until the late 1980s, contractors used asbestos in the construction of homes and buildings across the country.

Asbestos was an ideal product in many ways. Widely regarded as an efficient insulation material, it was also durable and fire resistant. In fact, all over the world, asbestos became a standard in the construction industry. Even the military used it extensively.

Bane to Health

As early as 1897, an Austrian doctor diagnosed pulmonary disease as a result of inhalation of asbestos dust. Then, in 1898, a report in the UK cited “widespread damage and injury of the lungs, due to the dusty surrounding of the asbestos mill.”  Since then, medical research has consistently identified exposure to asbestos as a major health hazard.

Remarkably, asbestos is still in use in the USA, though on a low level. Despite the direct link to mesothelioma, it has not been banned from the construction industry.  A cancer virtually unknown until the 20th century, mesothelioma has been directly attributed to asbestos inhalation. The Cancer Council says that the only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.

 

mesothelioma and asbestos

Infographic from www.asbestos.com

A report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that there would be 824 Australians diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2018. That’s up from 157 in 1982.

Research suggests it can be many years between exposure to asbestos dust and developing mesothelioma. Once the cancer develops though, life expectancy is short.

“Less than half of all Queenslanders diagnosed with the cancer will survive more than a year after diagnosis,” according to the Cancer Council.

Asbestos in Construction

Asbestos South Brisbane

Infographic from www.asbestosbrisbane.net.au

In 2016, asbestos was found in building materials imported from China at the 1 William Street tower construction. The contractor removed the materials from the site. They also took steps to ensure that their sites and imports are asbestos-free. However, industry insiders maintain that many other importers continue to bring in non-compliant materials. This happens despite government monitoring and the threat of sanctions.

In recent news, the Environment Department’s Operation Tora has been in the forefront of a crackdown on illegal waste disposal. Operation Tora has reportedly fined 12 companies so far. One of these companies is a Brisbane asbestos removal firm with a 2017 conviction for illegally dumping 150 tonnes of asbestos in two QLD landfills.

How Old is Your Home?

In 2013, the Department of Health issued a guide for the general public. It states in part that a home built before the mid-1980s very likely has asbestos in it.  Houses built from the mid-1980s to 1990 are still likely to have asbestos in them.

After 1990, most houses would not have asbestos-containing products anymore. However, the cement materials used for some houses built up to the early 2000s may still have it. The total ban on all activities involving asbestos did not take effect until 2003.

Where to Look

“Fibro, cladding, gutters, down pipes, ceiling liners, fences, wall linings are some of the most likely areas we check for clients. A common misconception is that when you buy a house, the building inspection or the conveyancing will identify issues like asbestos. But they don’t,” Rob Berry explains.

Asbestos South Brisbane home

Infographic from www.health.gov.au

“Breathing asbestos dust is dangerous to health and the dust can come from a very innocuous location in your home,” he warns.

However, he does offer some assurance. “The presence of asbestos in home building materials generally does not pose a health risk, unless the material is broken, deteriorating or disturbed in such a way that airborne asbestos fibres are produced.”

Nevertheless, he points out that the danger of airborne asbestos fibres is very real. “There is the potential for this to occur when asbestos-containing material is broken. Or when it is being drilled, sanded or cut with a power tool,” he explains.

“Often, exposure can come as a result of some simple home DIY. Or rotted or disturbed ceiling matter. Or even drilling holes to hang a picture,” he adds.

For your peace of mind, Rob Berry offers a free home testing service through BBM Contracts.  To organise a free testing service to check for asbestos in your home, contact Rob Berry at 1300 427 237.