We all like to see our homes as our own safe havens from the world: a place where we can relax and feel comfortable and at ease. It may concern you to note that approximately a third of all private residences erected in Australia contain some form of asbestos – a potentially deadly substance, responsible for countless deaths every year.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance which was widely used by the construction industry in the 20th century, but it has been banned in Australia since 2003. Its prevalence is largely a product of its versatility and cost: Before the risks of exposure were fully and widely understood, asbestos represented a cost-effective construction material in both domestic and industrial builds. It is now understood that exposure to asbestos can result in the inflammation and scarring of the lungs, in addition to mesothelioma, a form of cancer.
Common uses of asbestos
Asbestos was commonly used as a form of insulation due to its fire-resistant properties and is therefore often found within wall cavities. Walls themselves may also contain asbestos, as it was often used for faux-brick cladding on the exteriors of homes, and also internally in the form of asbestos cement used on walls, floors and ceilings. If your home was built more than three decades ago it is very likely to contain some form of asbestos, and any home renovation projects should be approached with caution to avoid disturbing and inhaling harmful asbestos fibres.
So what next?
If asbestos is disturbed and the fibres become airborne, the long-term consequences can be fatal. Symptoms often will not appear until many years later; however, exposure should be avoided at all costs. As asbestos cannot generally be identified on sight alone, the best course of action before proceeding with any home renovation work would be to consult an accredited specialist association such as the National Association of Testing Authorities, who will be able to test for the presence of asbestos in your home. Consultation with construction professionals is also strongly recommended if there are any doubts over how to proceed. Businesses like McMahon Services specialise in safely removing asbestos from residences and other structures.
Asbestos is often referred to as a 'silent killer', hiding in plain sight in many of our homes. If you suspect that asbestos may be hiding in your home, be sure to find out as soon as possible, and do not hesitate to contact a local professional for further advice and assistance.