Asbestos Information

If your property was built or renovated before the 31st of December 2003, there is the possibility it will contain asbestos material.

Asbestos information

Almost all residents of Western Australia are at risk of asbestosis and mesothelioma if asbestos is handled incorrectly.

In Western Australia, it is estimated that over 90% of all houses built before 1984 contained asbestos material and it was not until 31 December 2003 that it became illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use asbestos in Australia.

Asbestos can be found in over 3000 different products, with a variety being found within Perth homes and businesses.

Asbestos was widely considered a cheap, durable product, which was used extensively in the building industry.

Dangers and disease

The two most well-known asbestos-related diseases are ASBESTOSIS and MESOTHELIOMA.

Symptoms of these two may be similar, but they also do have their differences. The most crucial point of this is that there is currently no cure. Due to the risks associated with asbestos is essential to hire a professional asbestos removal company to remove any asbestos-containing material.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is not cancer, but it has been shown to increase the likelihood of a person developing lung cancer or mesothelioma in the future. Asbestosis is a chronic respiratory disease caused when asbestos fibres are inhaled, lodging in the Alveoli.

The function of the Alveoli involves the absorption of oxygen and the expulsion of Carbon Dioxide. If the tiny air sacs in the lungs are hindered from the exchange, then constant “shortness of breath” may be present. Asbestosis will continue to progress as time passes. The lungs will become more stiff and scarring increases.

Asbestosis can also largely contribute to cardiac issues. The lungs and heart work together. Any damage caused to the lungs can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Heart problems can be an early indicator of asbestosis.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, as asbestos fibres are inhaled. The symptoms are a lot more severe and the prognosis, once diagnosed is between 4 to 12 months until death.

Due to the asbestos fibres becoming lodged in the lungs and unable to be exhaled, the lungs become scarred and stiffness begins to occur. A person with Asbestosis or Mesothelioma can describe the feeling as, tightness in the chest, with the inability to take full, deep breaths.

Whether it is from working with asbestos material, or living/working within an asbestos present environment. It is crucial that precautions be taken whenever there is a likelihood of asbestos material is present.

The latency period between the initial exposure to asbestos and diagnosis of asbestosis and mesothelioma can range from 10 to 40 years.

For further information, refer to the WA Mesothelioma Register.

Frequently Asked Questions

Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of minerals that achieve a fluffy consistency through processing. Asbestos fibres are flexible and soft, and also resist heat, corrosion and electricity. While asbestos has many useful qualities, exposure to asbestos fibres can be deadly.

Asbestos is not a single mineral. Instead, the term "asbestos" is a group of silicate minerals that share the same texture and properties. Asbestos is often classified by colour:

  • “white asbestos” (chrysotile)
  • “brown asbestos” (amosite)
  • “blue asbestos” (crocidolite)

Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals. The mineral structure is made up of fibres that are thin and needle-like. Asbestos can strengthen and fireproof materials, but it is banned in many countries. Exposure to asbestos is linked to a number of cancers and diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos has been banned in Australia since 2003, so it is still present in many commercial and residential properties. In contrast, asbestos use is regulated, but not completely banned, in the United States.

Pure asbestos makes an effective insulator. It can be processed into cloth, cement, paper, plastic and other materials to give them the desired qualities. But when someone ingests or inhales asbestos dust, the tiny mineral fibres can become trapped forever in their body. Over decades, trapped asbestos fibres can cause inflammation, scarring and eventually genetic damage to the body’s cells. An aggressive cancer called mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure also causes other forms of cancer and lung diseases.

Sometimes it's easy to spot asbestos. Other times, you can't tell building materials that contain asbestos just by looking at them. Only asbestos testing by certified professionals can determine the presence of asbestos. When in doubt, treat building materials as if asbestos is present and take all the necessary precautions during handling.

The microscopic fibres within asbestos can't be seen by the human eye. In order to identify it within another material, you need to know what materials to investigate. Pure asbestos can be made into paper, felt, cloth or rope. Asbestos fibres have also been mixed into cements (fibro), drywall compounds, paint, sealants, plastics and adhesives. Signs that a building contains asbestos include:

  • old flooring tiles in a 9-inch by 9-inch pattern
  • pipes that have white or grey insulation, especially around the fittings
  • popcorn ceilings in historic buildings (particularly construction dating from 1930s-1980s)

Early asbestos materials often have a characteristic woven pattern on the surface, like small dimples or shallow "scoops" covering the surface. Later materials have a smoother, finer weave. This is not a fool proof identification, but seeing the characteristic weave on the surface merits taking asbestos precautions.

Fibre cements, also known as 'fibro', 'asbestos cement' or 'AC sheeting' can contain 10-15% of asbestos. Some fibre cements can be up to 40% asbestos! In Australia and most countries, cellulose fibres have replaced asbestos in fibre cement products. Old fibro is safe to be around unless it forms cracks, becomes damaged, or needs to be worked on (i.e. sawed into or broken down).

Asbestos has not been used in domestic building materials since the 1980s. However, it was not until 31 December, 2003 that asbestos-containing products were banned in Australia.

It is now illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use these materials. If you're worried about being in compliance with asbestos regulations, talk to a professional now.

For safety and legal purposes, Asbestos removal  should always be carried out by a licensed professional. In WA,  individuals are permitted to remove up to 10 square metres of bonded asbestos without professional help. When removing more than 10 square metres from a site, individuals are required to hire a qualified asbestos removalist or register with a WA SafeWork for a bonded asbestos removal licence.

Any friable asbestos must be removed by qualified asbestos removalists.

  • Wear PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) including a respirator.
  • Make sure your mask has two straps to hold it firmly in place.
  • Wear a hat, gloves, disposable coveralls, and safety glasses or goggles.
  • Don't eat or smoke in the work area.
  • Wash hands and face with soap before meal breaks and after work.
  • Don't use power tools.
  • Don't water blast or scrub asbestos materials.
  • Evenly mist asbestos products with water.
  • Avoid drilling and cutting into asbestos products.
  • Don’t drop fibro sheets.

Archaeological evidence suggests that asbestos has been used since at least 2500 B.C. Asbestos mining and use soared during the industrial revolution. In the 1800s, chrysotile deposits were found and mined in Canada, while crocidolite was found and excavated in South Africa.

It is never "safe" to be exposed to asbestos. The only way to ensure safety is to hire a licenced asbestos removal professionals. That being said, asbestos always has the worst effects when a person is exposed to an intense concentration of it, or they are exposed on a regular basis over a long period of time. As asbestos accumulates in the body with each new exposure, there is no known way to reverse the cellular damage in lungs, skin and soft palate tissues.

The majority of patients who suffer from asbestos-related diseases are males in their 60s or older. Asbestos-related diseases take decades of repeated exposure to develop. For this reason, diseases such as mesothelioma usually trace back to worksite hazards at factories that were historically staffed by men, i.e. insulation factories, tile factories, etc.

Asbestos is not hazardous if fibres are encapsulated or otherwise unable to aerate (break off and float around). Concern focuses on friable asbestos. “Friable” materials crumble easily and break off into particles that could be inhaled, similar to lead paint. Widely used products that may contain friable asbestos include:

  • Insulation
  • Acoustical plaster
  • Paper products
  • Spackling compounds

If you have any concerns about exposure to friable asbestos, don't put yourself or your workers at risk. Contact a licenced team of asbestos removal experts today.

Need a certified asbestos removal contractor?

Here at Rapid Asbestos, we are committed to getting the job done to the highest possible standard and charge competitive pricing for all our services. We understand that asbestos is a dangerous material and you only want the most qualified and experienced company to carry out the work.