Today marks the start of National Asbestos Awareness Month, with Australians urged to be aware of asbestos-containing materials and where they might be lurking, and learn how to manage and dispose of it safely.
Australia is among the largest consumers of asbestos-containing materials in the world with asbestos used in the manufacture of a broad range of building and decorator products that can still be found in brick, weatherboard, fibro or clad homes or farmhouses, particularly those built or renovated before 1987.
Asbestos can be anywhere! Under floor coverings including carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings and ceiling space (insulation), eaves, garages, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, extensions to homes, garages, outdoor toilets, backyard and farm structures, chook sheds and even dog kennels.
In rural regions many farm structures were constructed from fibro as a cost-effective means of housing farm equipment and stock including sheds and barns. It was also widely used to construct ‘sleep-out’ additions to farmhouses, workers accommodation for shearers and farm-hands, outhouses, water tanks. Fibro was also commonly used to build community housing throughout much of regional Australia.
Rural communities also need to be aware of naturally occurring asbestos (NOA). All asbestos-containing materials are made using this mineral. NOA is not easy to recognise and can be found in some rocks and soils on or below the ground’s surface so people working on the land or in rural communities need to be aware that naturally occurring asbestos could be uncovered.
NOA can be any size and shape, and can be green, grey, yellow or white in colour and these variations make it difficult to identify. The only way to confirm if soil or rocks contain NOA is testing by a licensed asbestos assessor or an occupational hygienist.
All Australians, especially those who undertake maintenance on buildings, should visit asbestosawareness.com.au to learn what they need to know about asbestos and how to manage it safely.
The website provides easy to follow information, an online product database to help identify the types of asbestos-containing products to look for and possible locations, and information on how to manage and dispose of asbestos safely.
To protect themselves and families from exposure to dangerous asbestos fibres, people can also download the ‘Asbestos Awareness Healthy House Checklist’ – a simple step-by-step guide on how to conduct a visual inspection of a home to ensure any suspected asbestos is identified and can be managed safely.