The dangers of removing Asbestos yourself 2016
A dangerous legacy of the past, asbestos still remains a threat in many Australian homes. Australia’s housing industry boomed, and from the 1940s up until the late 1980s asbestos products were used in hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings around the country.
So, if your home was built before 1990, it is likely to contain asbestos of some sort. When planning to renovate or if you suspect asbestos in your home, there are dangers in removing asbestos yourself.
Asbestos products became popular because they were cost-effective, fire-resistant, strong and durable, and made new housing affordable. Australia finally banned the importing, using or reusing, selling, manufacturing, supplying or storage of asbestos products of any sort after the negative effects of asbestos became known.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos generically refers to fibrous silicate materials existing naturally in certain environments. These tiny natural fibres are up to 200 times finer than our hair and can drift in the atmosphere for a long time. They are invisible and you can inhale them into your lungs. In the 1990s doctors began reporting health concerns surrounding people in contact and working with asbestos
Mining these materials was popular for many years to meet the high demand for asbestos products, particularly in the building industry. Asbestos cement was commonly used in fibro sheeting, corrugated roof sheeting, downpipes, water pipes, gutters, drains and roof shingles, and coverings for electrical wires.
Dangers of asbestos
It is almost impossible to avoid exposure to asbestos at some time your life, but risks from exposure are small for most people. The dangers of asbestos use were unknown until doctors began seeing asbestos workers with medical problems related to asbestos too often. Eventually scientific knowledge found the tiny asbestos fibres and dust inhaled into the lungs by asbestos workers were causing life threatening illnesses.
Disturbing asbestos creates fibres and dust can be easily inhaled. When breathed in, it breaks downs into minute pieces to puncture the lining around the lungs to embed itself there forever. The human body cannot remove asbestos from the system, and can cause:
- lung cancer
- cancer in the intestinal tract
- pleural plaques.
Help! I think I have asbestos.
If you suspect you have asbestos in your home or building, do not disturb or remove it until you have more information. You can risk the health of your family, friends and neighbours. Undamaged asbestos poses no threat so do not panic. But if it is deteriorating, breaking down or is in generally poor condition then this is a health threat to your family and, possibly, your neighbours.
More than 2,000 people a year are still being diagnosed with asbestos related diseases in Australia. Asbestos affects people in different ways. Some people contract mesothelioma after only a brief exposure to the fibres, others after long periods of exposure, and some people get sick decades after removing it from their homes or washing the clothes of asbestos workers. While you can remove asbestos from your home following strict removal guidelines, you are best to seek the advice of a professional asbestos removalist.
Important things to remember if you suspect the presence of asbestos:
- Exposure to asbestos fibres is never safe.
- Asbestos that is deteriorating or broken releases fibres and fine dust into the air which you may inhale.
- Breathing asbestos fibres into your lungs can cause life-threatening diseases such a mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
- There is no cure for mesothelioma and the rate of its diagnosis is rising.
- The length of exposure to asbestos fibres is relative to your risk of contracting a related health issue.
- Asbestos related diseases lie dormant for 20 to 30 years before symptoms develop.
Always take safety precautions if working or handling asbestos, and talk to professionals for the best advice!