The dangers of asbestos: Why professional removal is essential

Asbestos, once lauded for its versatility and durability, is now recognised as a silent killer. Find out why you need professional removal.

From the 1940s to the late 1980s, asbestos was a popular material used in various construction projects across Australia. Its resistance to heat, electricity, and corrosion made it a sought-after component for building insulation, roofing, and flooring. However, the very properties that made asbestos useful are also the reasons it poses significant health risks. 

Understanding these dangers and why professional removal from the likes of HM Group is crucial can protect your health and your loved ones.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals composed of thin, needle-like fibres. These fibres are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals, and they do not conduct electricity. There are six types of asbestos, but the most common types used in construction are chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), and crocidolite (blue asbestos).

The health risks of asbestos exposure

When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibres are released into the air. These fibres can be inhaled and become trapped in the lungs, leading to severe health issues over time. Here are some of the most significant health risks associated with asbestos exposure:

1. Asbestosis 

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibres. The fibres cause lung tissue scarring, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Chest pain

2. Mesothelioma 

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal swelling and pain
  • Weight loss

3. Lung cancer 

Lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos exposure. Smokers who have been exposed to asbestos are at an even higher risk. Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing up blood

Identifying asbestos in your home

Many older homes in Australia still contain asbestos. Here are common places where asbestos might be found:

  • Roofing and shingles
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Insulation in walls and attics
  • Cement sheeting
  • Pipe insulation
  • Textured paint and patching compounds

Visual inspection 

A visual inspection can sometimes identify potential asbestos-containing materials. Look for areas with old, deteriorating, or damaged materials, as these are more likely to release fibres.

Professional testing 

The only way to confirm the presence of asbestos is through professional testing. Certified asbestos professionals can take samples and have them analysed in a lab to determine if asbestos is present and, if so, what type.

Why DIY asbestos removal is dangerous

Attempting to remove asbestos yourself is highly risky. Here’s why professional removal is essential:

  • Exposure Risk: DIY removal can easily lead to fibre release. Without proper protective gear and techniques, you risk inhaling these fibres, which can cause serious health issues.
  • Legal Consequences: In Australia, strict regulations govern the handling and disposal of asbestos. Improper removal can lead to significant fines and legal issues.
  • Proper Equipment: Professionals have access to specialised equipment designed to safely contain and remove asbestos. This includes protective clothing, respirators, and HEPA vacuum systems.

The process of professional asbestos removal

Professional asbestos removal is a meticulous process designed to ensure safety at every step. Here’s an overview of what to expect:

  • Initial Inspection: A professional will assess your property to identify potential asbestos-containing materials.
  • Containment: Areas with asbestos are sealed off to prevent fibres from spreading. This might include using plastic sheeting and negative air pressure units.
  • Removal: Professionals carefully remove asbestos-containing materials using specialised tools and techniques to minimise fibre release.
  • Disposal: Asbestos waste is securely bagged and transported to authorised disposal sites.
  • Decontamination: The work area is thoroughly cleaned, and air monitoring ensures that all fibres have been removed.

Asbestos regulations in Australia

Australia has strict regulations for asbestos management to protect public health. These regulations include:

  • Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations: The WHS regulations outline the legal requirements for handling asbestos in the workplace, including training, exposure limits, and removal procedures.
  • Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA): ASEA is responsible for coordinating national efforts to manage and eradicate asbestos. They provide guidelines and support for safe asbestos handling.
  • National Asbestos Exposure Register: The National Asbestos Exposure Register records details of people who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos. This helps monitor and manage long-term health risks.

Tips for homeowners

If you suspect your home contains asbestos, follow these guidelines to stay safe:

  • Do Not Disturb – Avoid touching or disturbing materials that may contain asbestos.
  • Hire Professionals – Always hire licensed professionals for asbestos testing and removal.
  • Stay Informed – Educate yourself about asbestos and its risks. ASEA and other agencies provide valuable resources.

Professional asbestos removal is essential

Asbestos is a hidden danger that requires serious attention. The health risks associated with asbestos exposure are severe, and improper handling can lead to significant legal and health consequences.

Professional asbestos removal is the safest and most effective way to ensure your home is free from this hazardous material. By understanding the dangers and taking appropriate actions, you can protect your health and create a safer environment for everyone.

Whether you’re renovating an old home or just want peace of mind, prioritising professional asbestos management is essential. Stay informed, stay safe, and always choose professionals when dealing with asbestos.