Asbestos is the name given to a six naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals that have previously been used in roofing, cement sheets, pipes, insulation, building materials and other products.
Commonly used because of its strong and heat resistant properties, asbestos can cause a number of serious diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer and other non-malignant lung diseases such as asbestosis, pleural plaques and pleural thickening.
Asbestos and all products containing it have been banned in Australia since 31 December 2003; it cannot be imported, supplied, stored, sold or installed.
Being exposed to the airborne particles of asbestos poses the greatest risk to health, and when the particles are breathed in some can stay lodged in the lungs, causing disease over time.
Asbestosis is one of the most common diseases caused by asbestos. It is a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibres and may take five to 20 years before symptoms begin to develop.
The disease causes the lungs to stiffen and makes them stop working properly. It can cause breathlessness, chest tightness, persistent coughing and discolouring in the skin from a lack of oxygen.
Asbestosis worsens over time and makes breathing much more difficult. Eventually it can lead to respiratory failure and death – there is no cure for asbestosis.
It can be diagnosed by an X-Ray or a lung function test and people who smoke are also more likely to develop the disease.
Houses built or renovated before 1987 are likely to contain asbestos, with one in three houses in Australia containing the hazardous material.
If your home does contain asbestos, it is important that a licensed professional is consulted to remove it. It can be a complicated process and if an unqualified person tries to remove it there is a greater risk to them and their family.
A licenced removalist will come to your home, remove the asbestos safely and dispose of it according to government regulations.
If you have to do any work on your home and you suspect your home was built or renovated before 1987, make sure you take the correct precautions.
• Wear a dust mask, hat, gloves, disposable coveralls and safety goggles.
• Do not eat, drink or smoke in the work area or you may inhale it.
• Do not use power tools.
• Do not water blast or scrub.
• Do not drop fibro sheets.
• Let people know and make sure everyone, including pets are clear from the work site.
Asbestos is categorised as hazardous waste and there are strict laws governing its disposal. For information on how to dispose of asbestos and more information on it visit http://www.asbestosawareness.com.au/#!__asbestos-awareness