White asbestos, also called chrysotile asbestos or serpentine asbestos, is one of the six types of asbestos. It is considered by experts to be less dangerous than the other types of asbestos, but it is still a major health hazard. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Think you’ve found asbestos in your property? Or are you concerned that it might be present in a poor condition? Asbestos can be a renovation hazard, so here’s what you should you look out for.

What exactly is asbestos?

Asbestos is the common name for a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that form into microscopic fibres.

From the 1940s to the late 1980s, asbestos was used as a binding product in home building materials such as wall and floor sheeting, roofing and pipes.

It was also used in thermal insulation, fireproofing, brake linings, clutches, etc. Most Australian homes built during this period may include asbestos-containing materials.

OK, got it. But what does it look like?

Unfortunately asbestos is pretty hard to identify with the naked eye. To be sure, you need to have a sample professionally analysed.

What happens if I find it?

Internal asbestos-cement sheet walls or ceilings that are in good condition and coated with paint are not a health risk. In fact, the presence of asbestos in home building materials isn’t risky, unless it’s in a poor, broken or deteriorated condition.

Cool. Can I remove it myself?

Legally – Yes, you can. But take care. Asbestos must be handled carefully during the removal process, as well as packaging, transport and disposal. The experts recommend you only remove firmly-bound asbestos. If you have loosely-bound asbestos, leave it to the professionals.

Have a question you would like to see answered here? Let us know!

Could my rental have asbestos present? 

As a general rule, if your house was built before the mid-1980s, it is highly likely that it would have some asbestos-containing materials. If your house was built between the mid-1980s and 1990, it is likely that it would have asbestos-containing materials. If your house was built after 1990, it is unlikely that it would have asbestos-containing materials.

What are the health risks associated with asbestos?

If asbestos is bonded and its fibres are not airborne, it is not a risk to health. If asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or broken and the microscopic fibres become airborne, they can become a health risk when breathed into the lungs.

Unsafe removal or damage of asbestos-containing materials can also contaminate the ground around your home.

I suspect there is asbestos loose/disturbed?

Do not touch the area, try to close off the room/area until you are able to get in touch with your landlord or real estate agent.

The landlord has an obligation to maintain your property in a reasonable state of repair, so if you have concerns about asbestos you should notify the landlord or real estate agent straight away.

In many circumstances, it may be necessary for the landlord to get a licensed asbestos assessor to inspect your property.

Can I move out? What happens to my rent?

If it is confirmed that there is asbestos loose on your property then you should ask the asbestos assessor what you should do to manage the risk.

If the assessor recommends you leave the property for a period of time or permanently you should then speak to your landlord or real estate agent about this. You should seek legal advice if you are unsure what to do.

Have a question you would like to see answered here? Let us know!

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