Q&A with Technical Manager David Kyburz
Q: I have been asked to quote on an alteration to a house in Ngunnawal, however would the residence contain asbestos?
A: Asbestos was once used in Australia in more than 3,000 different products including fibro, flue pipes, drains, roofs, gutters, brakes, clutches and gaskets.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral and can typically be found in rock, sediment or soil. It has strong fibres that are heat resistant and have good insulating properties and because of these properties asbestos was seen as being very useful for building products. It is described as being either ‘non-friable or ‘friable’, asbestos.
Friable asbestos is a material containing asbestos that when dry, is in powder form or may be crushed or pulverised into powder form using your hand. This material poses a higher risk of exposing people to airborne asbestos fibres. Friable asbestos was commonly used in industrial applications rather than the home, although loose-fill asbestos has been found in homes in NSW and the ACT, where it was sold as ceiling and wall insulation ie Mr Fluffy.
Non-friable or bonded asbestos products are solid and you can’t crumble them in your hand—the asbestos has been mixed with a bonding compound such as cement. If non-friable asbestos is damaged or degraded it may become friable and will then pose a higher risk of fibre release.
Friable asbestos products have been commonly used in commercial and industrial settings since the late 1800s for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation. Some friable products were also used in houses and may still be found in houses built before 1990.
Asbestos cement materials can become friable when they are sufficiently damaged, badly weathered or otherwise deteriorated.
In Australia, asbestos cement materials were first manufactured in the 1920s and were commonly used in the manufacture of residential building materials from the mid-1940s until the late 1980s. During the 1980s asbestos cement materials were phased out in favour of asbestos-free products.
Asbestos material would likely be found located in areas such as the eaves, internal and external wall cladding, ceilings 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 (See picture below).
*Australian Government Department of Health
From 31 December 2003, the total ban on manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of all forms of asbestos came into force.
In the ACT, almost every house built before 1985 contained asbestos cement materials. Houses located in Gungahlin or Southern Tuggeranong are more than likely to be free of asbestos as these areas were developed after 1985. The suburb Ngunnawal was gazetted in 1992 with residential development commencing in 1993.
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.
For further information regarding asbestos you may follow this link https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/50/~/asbestos#!tabs-1
If you have any technical questions you may contact me on 6175 5954, mobile 0419 866 796 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org