Removing Friable Asbestos From Your Home

Until usage was curbed in the 1980's, Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos usage per person in the world. In 2003 a total ban was placed on asbestos in Australia, making it illegal to mine, manufacture, export or import the deadly substance. 

Asbestos labourer removing panel of friable asbestos.

However, this ban couldn't account for all the asbestos already in the housing supply and previously we have talked extensively about the amount and dangers of this legacy asbestos hiding in Australia's homes. 

This asbestos is usually found in two forms: Friable and non-friable. 

The good news is that if you live in Sydney your house is likely to contain non-friable asbestos, which is the least dangerous of the two as the asbestos fibres are contained in a bonding agent, like cement. Although friable asbestos has been found in some Sydney homes, it saw more widespread use in colder parts of the country like Canberra

Although certainly less hazardous, non-friable asbestos should still be treated with caution as any damage can break the seal and release dangerous asbestos fibres into the air.

In NSW it is legal for home owners to remove up to 10m2 of friable asbestos themselves; however, this is not recommended and is even illegal in other states, like Victoria. 

Asbestos labourer spraying friable asbestos with water

Friable asbestos removal is always a task best undertaken by licensed professionals as it is a tedious and delicate process. During removal each panel of friable asbestos must be removed individually and intact while being sprayed with water to ensure no asbestos minerals become airborne.

Once the asbestos containing material has been removed it must be wrapped in plastic ad placed in a skip for proper disposal. 

Overall, removing friable asbestos is safe and can even be relatively low risk if undertaken properly. However, given the margin for error, it can also be very unsafe if undertaken without thought, planning and the proper safety considerations. 

Related Articles



Renovators Beware: The Dangers Of Legacy Asbestos

Up until the mid 1980's, products containing asbestos were commonly used in construction here in Australia. By the late 80's, use began to slow as asbestos-containing products were phased out in favour of asbestos free products. In 2003 a total asbestos ban was introduced, preventing the mining, manufacture, export, import or sale of asbestos products in Australia.

Home renovator in action.

The 2003 asbestos ban was fairly comprehensive; however, it couldn't remove the large amount of asbestos already in Australia's housing supply. Today, homeowners who own a property built or renovated before 1990 should be aware that there is a high chance of their home containing asbestos in one form or another. 

Although friable asbestos -  the most common type of asbestos found in Sydney homes is relatively harmless if intact, renovation activities can cause damage and release deadly asbestos fibres into the air as a result. Renovation activities like sanding, grinding, drilling, water blasting or cutting can all cause this.

In the past Australian's diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma -  a diseased caused by inhaling airborne asbestos fibres, - were those that were exposed through their work, but this is shifting and a growing body of evidence shows that renovators are at high risk of asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma. A 2014 report released by the Australia Mesothelioma Registry supports this, revealing that of the 350 people diagnosed with mesothelioma during that year, 37.2% of those diagnosed were home renovators. 

Diagram of lungs affected by Mesothelioma. 

Diagram of lungs affected by Mesothelioma. 

Overall Australia has one of the highest rates of Mesothelioma in the developed world. Although there is no straight forward answer as to 'why' this is the case, the explanation could lie in the large amount of asbestos in our housing supply,  the Aussie 'can do' attitude  and a general disregard for the risks associated with asbestos exposure.

In order to combat this, if you are considering renovating your home get educated and consider getting a licensed asbestos inspector or occupational hygienist to identify and remove any products containing asbestos that could be in your home. 

If you want to find out more about renovating a dwelling containing asbestos National Asbestos Awareness Month has a great selection of free resources you can check out. 

Related Articles