Play it safe on asbestos
QWe’re considering renovating our house and since we’re both quite handy, we thought we might do some of the work ourselves. But it’s an older house and I think it may contain asbestos. Should we go ahead?
AReality TV renovation shows have fuelled a lot of interest in taking on home projects and it can be incredibly rewarding to your hands dirty working on your house.
But you should understand the risks to you and your family before you begin, especially around asbestos. November is Asbestos Awareness month, with the focus shifting from professionals coming into contact with fibro products to the DIY community.
Once a popular material in housing construction after WWII when bricks were scarce, after it was linked to the fatal respiratory disease mesothelioma, products containing asbestos were banned from use in the early 1980s. However, many homes still contain the material, which is most often found in walls, roofs and as loose fill in attic spaces.
Product development manager for Pro Safety Gear, Brad Rodgers says there’s no need to panic if you live in a house built from fibro.
“If it is untouched and painted and well looked after, there’s no problem with living in it,” he says. But if you’re looking to extend, or even maintain your property, he says it’s important to know what you’re working with and the associated costs — to your wallet and your health.
Brad says it’s not something to play around with.
“If I thought there was a risk of asbestos, I’d call in a specialist so they could come in and identify it,” he says. “About 12 months ago my neighbour pulled down the fence between us which we thought was old asbestos. So we sent it away for testing.”
There are a range of testing services available but look for those with National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA) approval.
For Brad and his neighbour, the test proved negative, which made a difference to the way it was handled and disposed of, as well as the costs.
If you’re not sure whether your renovation will put you into contact with asbestos, get the suspect material checked before you start.
Inhalation of asbestos fibres can occur at any point during the construction process, including when you are working with it directly, or even if you come into contact with protective clothing exposed to asbestos.
Living in your house while it is being renovated can also pose a risk to you and your family thanks to the risk of asbestos dust.