Asbestos was used extensively in the building and construction industry in New South Wales until 1986. Many buildings built in Strathfield Local Government Area before 1987 may contain asbestos. Asbestos use is many and varied and included (but not limited):
- Corrugated roofing
- Wall cladding (internal and external)
- Thermal insulation
- Electricity and gas meter boxes
- Vinyl – asbestos floor tiles
- Asbestos insulated wiring; and
- Fibro sheet fencing.
Since 31 December 2003, importation, storage, supply, selling, installation, use and reuse of asbestos and asbestos related products has been banned in Australia. Asbestos fibres can easily become airborne if disturbed, and if they are inhaled, they can cause a variety of life-threatening diseases, including asbestosis (scarring of the lung tissue) and mesothelioma (cancer of the pleural lining). There is no safe exposure level of asbestos.
The presence of asbestos does not constitute a danger if it is in good condition. However it is hazardous when disturbed during demolition, renovation or mishap, as the fibres may be released into the air and remain suspended for a considerable time allowing for their inhalation. These fibres may remain in the human body for years before causing diseases, which generally result in death.
Materials that are suspected of containing asbestos should be inspected and tested by suitably qualified and experienced people before they are disturbed. It is not possible to establish if a material contains asbestos by simply looking at it. Doubtful material should be treated as containing asbestos. Some materials are clearly labelled as containing asbestos.
Types of asbestos
There are two types of material used in housing construction that contain asbestos:
- Bonded (Tightly Bound) Asbestos - Bonded materials containing asbestos are the most common in domestic houses. They are mainly made up of a bonding compound (such as cement) with up to 15% asbestos. Bonded materials containing asbestos are solid, quite rigid and the asbestos fibres are tightly bound in the material. They are commonly referred to as ‘fibro’, ‘asbestos cement’ and ‘AC sheeting’.
- Loosely Bound (Friable) Asbestos - These are not commonly found in domestic houses. They were primarily used in commercial and industrial settings for fire proofing, sound proofing and insulation. They can be found in some old domestic heaters, stoves, hot water systems and associated pipe lagging and in the backing of vinyl and linoleum floor coverings.