Identifying Asbestos

Engaging an experienced asbestos consultant is an important step in identifying ACM on the property to ensure that the risk of asbestos related disease is minimised.

Asbestos is a common, naturally occurring mineral silicate that was used in many building products such as fibre cement sheet. When left and maintained in a good condition, bonded asbestos does not pose a significant health risk. Only when ACM is deteriorated or disturbed (such that it liberates fibres into the air) does it become a significant health risk.

Importantly, the Queensland Department of Workplace Health and Safety advisory note 6-Asbestolux, discusses a type of asbestos containing low density board that was produced by Australian industry from the late 1950's onward until approximately 1982. This boarding typically contains a high percentage of both brown (amosite) and white (chrysotile) asbestos and was formed as flat or perforated panels. These panels appear similar in shape and structure to 'asbestos cement' panels however contain much greater concentrations of asbestos and are a higher risk when disturbed as the asbestos becomes airborne more easily (friable).

This product may previously have been falsely identified in asbestos audits as being "asbestos cement". However, it is important to differentiate between the two materials as the asbestolux boarding is friable when damaged and MUST only be removed by an A class licensed removal contractor.

A good understanding of building codes will assist in identifying potential asbestos containing materials as asbestos was used within building materials primarily due to the fibres providing superior fire resistance and heat insulation. A qualified asbestos consultant or surveyor should be used to confirm if the material contains asbestos and conduct a risk assessment and record the results within an asbestos register.

The following is not an exhaustive list; however it will assist in identifying where asbestos products may be found:

  • Fibre cement sheet packing and capping materials under structural supports and roof tiles
  • Fibre cement sheet eaves , ceilings, walls, gables and fascia
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Compressed fibre cement sheet floors
  • Corrugated roof sheets
  • Sealants to movement joints and air condition duct work
  • Roof membranes
  • Moulded cement water pipes
  • Moulded asbestos lining to telephone pits
  • Moulded cistern tanks
  • Pipe lagging
  • Heater and boiler insulation
  • Textile cable wraps
  • Textile fire blankets
  • Low density board (Asbestolux)
  • Flange gaskets to pipes
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Insulation and sheeting to fire doors
  • Electrical backing boards
  • Infill panels underneath windows
  • Spray applied fire rating material to ceiling and structural beams
  • Sound dampener underneath the kitchen sink
  • Window putty
  • Pointing work between brickwork
  • Millboard insulation to air conditioning reheating elements

Identifying asbestos cannot be confirmed by a visual examination. Samples of the suspected material must undergo asbestos testing at a NATA accredited laboratory using a microscope. If a suspected material is not submitted for testing, then the material will be presumed to contain asbestos. While the asbestos testing may seem to be an extra expense, it can save money in the long term as any repair or removal will required costly controls and monitoring.

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.... Kerrie Williams

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