Should Australians Be Concerned About the Possibility of Asbestos in Their Homes?

There's a fairly accurate rule of thumb for determining whether you should be concerned about asbestos in your home. The use of asbestos has been outlawed in Australia since 31 December 2003. Any residential or commercial properties constructed after this date should, by law, be free of asbestos. There's a disclaimer though—if your home is an apartment in a high-rise or a unit in a block of flats, it pays to check the construction date of the building. For example, a large building completed in 2004 may have begun construction in 2003, meaning asbestos may still be present in the building.

The Presence (Or Lack) Of Asbestos

For homes or residential buildings that were built prior to 31 December 2003, it remains possible that asbestos may have been used in their construction. The presence (or lack) of asbestos should never be an assumption. Suspected asbestos must be professionally identified, using a certified asbestos testing centre. Look for a centre accredited by the national association of testing authorities (NATA). An inspection involves a visual assessment of the suspected asbestos, along with the removal of a small sample for definitive laboratory testing. So what happens if this testing confirms the presence of asbestos in your home?

Do Not Disturb

Positive identification of asbestos in a residential home triggers two possible responses: removal, or do not disturb. Some instances of asbestos, depending on its volume and location, may pose so little risk that no action is necessary. It's intact, and so is essentially dormant—as it's not releasing any particles. Provided that the asbestos doesn't deteriorate, it's not significant enough to warrant removal. The site in question may remain secure behind your wall's plasterboard and paint. However, the site cannot be disturbed in any way.

Asbestos Removal

Sometimes the site may need to be disturbed (in the event of a home renovation), or the asbestos may have deteriorated to the point that it's actively releasing harmful particles into the air. In this case, professional asbestos removal (handled by a qualified contractor) will be needed, as this is the only way to comprehensively remove the asbestos and dispose of it. Asbestos removal is not a DIY project. 

Any deposits of asbestos in residential property may be concerning for those who live in said properties. But removal is not necessarily the only way to deal with the problem, since some deposits of asbestos can be safely left in place. However, you must be 100% sure about the presence of asbestos (via professional testing), allowing the necessary precautionary measures to be taken.

For more information, contact a company like Health Safety Environment Australia.