The word asbestos rings alarm bells with many people and many of us still have trouble sorting the myths from the facts about this potentially dangerous substance.
One problem is that many people don't believe they have asbestos in their homes when, in fact, you'll find it in almost every house that was built before 1985. In the ACT, unless you live in Gungahlin or Southern Tuggeranong, chances are your home may contain asbestos.
Asbestos is usually located in eaves or in wet areas like laundries and bathrooms in the form of asbestos cement sheeting (fibro) but may also be contained in floor tiles and pipe lagging.
According to the experts, when materials that contain asbestos are in good condition and left undisturbed, they do not pose a risk to your health. In fact, if you live in a house that contains asbestos, you won't necessarily be exposed to more asbestos fibres than people who live in homes that are totally asbestos-free.
It's that word "undisturbed" that makes the difference. When you're doing home repairs or renovations you need to be aware that this might disturb asbestos fibres.
It is now illegal for any DIY renovators and trades people to handle or disturb any Material Containing Asbestos (MCA). Only Licensed Asbestos Removalists that have had approved training in asbestos removal, are legally allowed to handle or remove MCAs. Asbestos fibres in bonded or loose MCA products once released through disturbance can be inhaled. In some people, this can lead to asbestos-related diseases.
The chart below tells you where you're likely to find asbestos in ACT homes.
Tips for managing asbestos
- Find out what year your house was built and assess the chance of your home having asbestos. Visually check to see where it might be and make sure any materials are in good condition, not cracked or broken. If you're not sure whether a material contains asbestos, it's safest to treat it as if it does.
- If you plan to undertake repairs or renovations that involve disturbing or removing materials containing asbestos it's important you take proper precautions. Do not disturb any material containing asbestos. For smaller jobs, like painting, make sure you download the DIY Fact Sheets from the asbestos website - www.asbestos.act.gov.au. If it's a tradesperson or handyman you employ, make sure they are trained and qualified to handle asbestos. Otherwise, for the bigger jobs like bathroom renovations and home extensions, engage an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist to remove MCAs.
- If you're not intending to renovate, keep an eye on any materials containing asbestos to make sure they remain in good condition.
Mr Fluffy Asbestos
In the ACT 1,022 properties are affected by Mr Fluffy loose fill asbestos. The ACT government is currently in the process of demolishing affected properties. The cleared blocks will be progressively sold for new development.
A range of information is available about the Mr Fluffy program by clicking here.
Common locations of materials containing asbestos in ACT homes*