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If your house or workplace, along with buildings in your neighborhood, was built before 1980, there is a high likelihood of finding asbestos-containing materials. During the 1970s and 1980s, asbestos was commonly used in construction due to its fire-resistant properties. While materials containing asbestos are generally safe if left undisturbed, any damage during renovation or repair work can release harmful fibers into the air, posing serious health risks, including cancer.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos refers to a group of six silicate minerals: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. These minerals naturally occur and can be pulled into flexible fibers. Asbestos was favored in commercial and industrial applications from the 1970s to the 1980s due to its extreme durability, fire resistance, and electrical insulating properties.

Types of Asbestos Found:

All forms of asbestos were banned in Australia from December 31, 2003. After this date, any use of asbestos falls under strict legislation governing manufacturing, mining, import, supply, transport, removal, storage, installation, and disposal.

Where to Find Asbestos:

It can be challenging to identify asbestos-containing materials in a building. However, some processes can help:

  • Building Project Timeline: Knowing when the building was constructed can provide insights into the likelihood of asbestos use.
  • Location within the Building: Asbestos-containing materials can be found both inside and outside the building, including areas such as fireplaces, air conditioning units, wall and floor tiles, roofing sheets, and water pipes.

Safety Precautions:

Removing asbestos-containing materials should only be done by licensed professionals. However, if you decide to undertake removal yourself, consider the following precautions:

  • Avoid Power Tools: Do not use power tools that may create dust.
  • Consult Professionals: Seek advice from certified asbestos removalists before attempting any removal.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Wear appropriate PPE, including a respirator with a HEPA filter, disposable coveralls, and gloves.
  • Moisten Materials: Keep asbestos-containing materials wet to minimize fiber release.
  • Containment: Seal off the work area with plastic sheets to prevent contamination.
  • Air Conditioning: Turn off air conditioning systems during removal.

Process of Removing Asbestos:

  1. Find a Registered Removalist or Consultant: Only licensed removalists or consultants should be engaged for asbestos-related work.
  2. Notify Local Authorities: Inform the local government at least five days before commencing removal work.
  3. Consultation: Have an independent licensed consultant inspect the building to identify asbestos-containing materials.
  4. Worker Safety: Provide workers with appropriate protective clothing, equipment, and medical assessments.
  5. Removal Methods: Use specific methods approved for asbestos removal.
  6. Waste Disposal: Dispose of asbestos waste carefully according to regulations.
  7. Post-Removal Inspection: Conduct a post-removal inspection to ensure compliance with safety regulations.

By following these steps and engaging certified professionals, you can safely remove asbestos from a building while minimizing health risks to yourself and others.

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