Asbestos Facts and FAQs: Everything You Need to Know

Whether asbestos is still a foreign word to you, or you already know a thing or two about it, now might be the best time to expand your knowledge about this harmful material.

In this piece, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about asbestos with facts that everyone certainly needs to know.

We’ll start with an easy one.

What is asbestos?

You may know asbestos as a construction product that was used predominantly in old houses and other commercial buildings.

But technically, asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are fire and heat resistant fibres.

These insulating and fireproofing qualities are what makes asbestos a great construction material. It was also widely used in several other industries like automotive, ship making, HVAC systems, aircraft, and more.

Not to mention, because it’s a natural product that was able to be mined, it’s also relatively cheap! It’s no wonder why it was once considered as a “miracle material”.

What are the different types of asbestos?

There are six recognized types of asbestos. These types are also categorised into two families: amphibole and serpentine.

Amphibole is the type of asbestos that is composed of straight and jagged fibres. Serpentine asbestos, on the other hand, has curly fibres, hence the name.

Now onto the six recognized types.

Chrysotile or white asbestos – this is the most commonly used type of asbestos. Today, you can still find it in roofs, ceilings, walls, and floor tiles of old commercial buildings and residential properties.

Chrysotile is the only known type of asbestos that falls under the serpentine family. The succeeding types are all under the amphibole family.

Crocidolite or blue asbestos – Blue asbestos, on the other hand, was used mainly to insulate team engines in trains and ships back then.

Amosite or brown Asbestos – You normally find amosite in cement sheets, pipe insulation, ceiling tiles, insulating board, and other insulation products

Anthophyllite – this type has a grey, dull green, or white colour. It was also used in a lot of insulation products, however, just in limited quantities

Tremolite and actinolite – these remaining two types of asbestos are not used commercially. However, you can find them in white asbestos and talc as contaminants.

When was asbestos used?

Here in Australia, asbestos was widely used from the 1940s up to the 1990s as an insulation and fireproofing agent in houses, public buildings, and even machinery.

That’s why today, you can still find it in ceilings, the windows, roofing, electrical systems, you name it!

However, during the 1980s, asbestos was recognised as dangerous and its usage of it was reduced.

It was discovered that asbestos inhalation and ingestion can cause lung cancer and other lung complications later in life.

That’s why by the 90s, asbestos was already regulated until it was completely banned by the Australian government in December of 2003.

Why was asbestos used so widely?

Remember when we said that it was once called “the miracle material”? It’s mainly because asbestos has it all!

The ideal properties you could ask for in a construction material is in asbestos:

  • Strong
  • Incombustible
  • Heat-resistant
  • Sound absorbent
  • Versatile
  • And even acid resistant

Is asbestos banned across the world?

Asbestos is majorly banned in the UK and several other western nations like Australia, France, Italy, Germany, and more.

But you’ll still find it legal and commonly used in the USA and several Asian countries like India and China.

To this day, asbestos is still mined, processed, and packaged in countries like Russia, China, and Kazakhstan.

Is asbestos fibre visible to the naked eye?

No, asbestos fibres are not visible to the naked eye as they are very fine. They can only be seen using a microscope. But if you clump or group them together to form an asbestos product, that’s when they become visible.

How can you identify asbestos in your house?

If your house was built from the 1940s to the early 2000s, there’s a great chance that it has asbestos in it. However, identifying asbestos is not as simple as that.

If you think you have asbestos in your house, although you can see the clumped dust, it can be extremely difficult to identify or confirm that it is, indeed, asbestos.

The best way to identify the suspected asbestos in your house is to take some samples and send them to the lab for abestos testing.

This is something that you can’t do by yourself. You must seek professional help from asbestos inspection companies in your area.

They will help you detect, outline the exact locations of asbestos presence in your house, and set up an asbestos register for you.

Once you’ve identified which parts of your house are filled with asbestos, it’s up to you whether to leave them there or have them removed by professionals.

When should you remove asbestos from your home or property?

Normally, removing asbestos is the last option since it’s an expensive and a very complex method.

But if you’re planning a major renovation in your house or the commercial workplace that you own. that’s when you should engage licensed professionals like us here in Australia Asbestos Removalist.

By law, we should be the ones to handle large amounts of asbestos cement materials and other friable asbestos products.

We trained and underwent certifications specifically for the extraction and proper disposal of asbestos.

Another situation when you should have them removed is when the asbestos-filled area of your house has already been damaged. Either by a typhoon, a fire, an earthquake, or any other natural occurrence.

A damaged asbestos roof or wall should not be left hanging as they may release more asbestos dust into the air that could be inhaled not only by your family but also by your neighbours. 

On the other hand, if you know that parts of your house are contaminated with asbestos, and you want to do some very minor renovations, there’s only a certain amount of asbestos that you should handle yourself.

You may still carry out minor repairs as long as you wear proper protective equipment like a half-face filter respirator and follow other safety precautions that are outlined by your state.

If you own a commercial space with asbestos and you decide not to have it removed, you are legally required to acquire an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan.

Especially if the space is used as a workplace where many people may get exposed to the said material.

Why can’t you dispose of asbestos by simply burning or throwing them?

Asbestos is non–combustible and not flammable. That is why you can’t burn it.

And in case it’s burnt, it produces harmful smoke which, again, may cause a lot of health risks to the person who accidentally inhales it.

Not to mention, when an asbestos product is damaged by fire, it will only release more asbestos dust into the air, potentially harming anyone nearby and contaminating other areas.

It can be carefully disposed of by authorised and certified professionals only like us here in Asbestos Australia Removalist.

Check our asbestos removal and asbestos disposal services.

What happens if you breathe in asbestos once?

Depending on how much asbestos dust you’ve inhaled or how long and frequent were you exposed to asbestos, your risk of getting asbestos diseases may vary.

An asbestos worker who was exposed to a significant amount of asbestos almost every day of his or her life may have a higher risk than someone who just accidentally inhaled minimal asbestos fibres once.

However, keep in mind that the high and low risks levels are not synonymous with your safety from developing an asbestos disease.

You may be a low-risk individual, but you might still develop certain diseases later in life. Below are only some of those health effects of asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare type of lung cancer that develops in the mesothelial tissues. These tissues are found in the linings of the lungs, chest wall abdomen, and other protective linings in the body.

If you’ve inhaled or ingested a significant amount of asbestos constantly due to the nature of your work, there’s a good chance that you’re going to get this disease.

A patient diagnosed with this mesothelioma may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Too much sweating
  • Skin getting sensitive
  • Loss of appetite and energy

Asbestosis

This disease is often defined as the scarring of the lungs. Aside from the lungs, scarring can also be seen on the pleural membrane that surrounds the said organ.

It is also caused by prolonged exposure to a high concentration of asbestos fibres or dust. 

Much like mesothelioma, the symptoms of asbestosis are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Non-stop dry cough
  • Tightness and pains in the chest
  • Fatigue
  • Weight and appetite loss
  • Finger and toe clubbing

Lung cancer

Unbeknownst to many, you could still develop lung cancer even if you don’t smoke tobacco. If you’re exposed to asbestosis constantly, there’s a good chance that you’ll also get lung cancer.

While asbestos is not the major cause of lung cancer, asbestos lung cancer that is triggered by asbestos inhalation is still one of the most fatal asbestos-related diseases.

These are only some of the major diseases that are caused by asbestos inhalation and ingestion. Other diseases and complications that you may develop include:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Pleural thickening
  • Pleural effusion and more

How dangerous is asbestos?

The diseases that you may develop from asbestos exposure, certainly, is no joke. But what makes asbestos even more dangerous is the latency period for these asbestos-related diseases.

Take mesothelioma, for example. You wouldn’t experience the symptoms of this disease until 20-50 years after your initial asbestos exposure.

You could be very healthy for many years after you retire from your asbestos work, but once you’ve been diagnosed with the said disease, it could be very difficult for you.

Patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are often given 4-18 months of life expectancy after the diagnosis.

In 2020, 696 people died from mesothelioma in Australia. That same year, another 642 people were diagnosed with the same disease. And the average age of the said patients is 75.

Asbestosis, on the other hand, has a latency period of 20-30 years while asbestos lung cancer has 15-35 years.

These are only some of the numbers that prove the dangers and hazards of asbestos exposure. That’s why if you think your house or the workplace that you manage have asbestos in it, it’s better to call professionals for help and let us handle this material.

Contact Asbestos Australia Removalist of asbestos services in Melbourne

Asbestos removal and disposal shouldn’t be dealt with by amateurs at all. Always call experienced and reputed companies for asbestos removal in Melbourne.

Asbestos Australia Removalist handles this dangerous process with utmost efficiency. Our licensed professionals have the right knowledge, technique, equipment, and experience in dealing with this hazardous material.

You may check our recent projects here

Posted By: Asbestos Australia Removalist

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