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Asbestos Dangers Still Lurk in Canberra Homes
Even though almost half of “Mr.fluffy” homes have been demolished, the safety authorities may have found another house contaminated by asbestos-containing material (ACM) in Canberra, Australia. The asbestos taskforce head, Andrew Kefford, stated that even though he’s confident that the loose asbestos insulation removal program had identified almost all of the “Mr.fluffy” homes; there have been six cases of asbestos finding came to light in the past few years. He also encouraged Canberrans living in older houses to seek help and advice from a professional asbestos assessor before any renovation or refurbishment projects.
From 1968 to 1979, loose asbestos was sold predominantly by a local company (known as Mr. Fluffy) as ceiling insulation for commercial and residential premises in Canberra. This type of insulation is considered problematic since it contains raw asbestos that is fibrous by nature. When the insulation is disturbed, either by natural accidents or physical disturbance, the fibres can become airborne and easily inhaled by a human.
Loose asbestos insulation removal program in the ACT
A government-funded agenda, loose asbestos insulation removal program, was conducted from 1988 until 1993 to eliminate the hazardous substance from residential houses in the ACT. The government commenced this program in the interest of public health because of the health hazards posed by fibrous materials. The program aimed to eliminate accessible and visible loose ACM insulation in residential and commercial buildings in the ACT.
The loose asbestos insulation removal program had three phases:
- Survey: The first phase involved surveying residential buildings to assess which may contain loose ACM insulation. 65,000 residential buildings built before 1980 were surveyed through a visual inspection.
- Sealing: The second phase involved the sealing off contaminated ceiling where it was considered that ACM could enter into living areas. Once the ceilings were sealed, they were deemed safe by the government.
- Removal: The third phase was the removal of ACM insulation from the ceiling and accessible wall cavities. The procedure was undertaken according to the standards at that time and included air fibre monitoring in determining whether the buildings were safe to be reoccupied.
However, it is likely that some loose ACM insulation will still be present there; especially in some areas such as external and internal wall cladding, fences, and subfloor spaces.
Limitations of the ACM insulation removal program
There are many reasons why the program is unlikely to have removed all the ACM insulation in all ACT houses.
- The survey was conducted by a visual inspection; samples were only being taken and tested in an accredited laboratory if necessary. This method was considered as a reasonable technique at the time, though it clearly had many limitations. Thus, the government provided a disclaimer that while all measure and care was taken in the inspection, the government could not give a guarantee that all ACMs were identified in every building.
- The removal phase aimed to remove accessible ACMs in ceiling and wall cavities. Therefore, because of the nature of the fibrous material itself, it is highly likely that ACMs will still be present in the house, including in several locations such as external and wall cladding, underneath cornices and subfloor spaces.
- The accessible wall and ceiling cavities were sealed with a PVA spray to encapsulate any remaining fibres to minimise the risk of exposure. There is evidence that over time this may be damaged or deteriorated, allowing harmful fibres to escape.
In 2005, the government notified homeowners that all loose ACM insulation had been removed as part of the program. However, the government still reminded homeowners to take additional steps due to the possibility of ACMs remain in inaccessible areas of the building, particularly in wall cavities. The government cannot guarantee the accuracy of information about the status of ACM in individual houses and it is important for you to be aware that:
- Garages and sheds were not surveyed during the loose asbestos removal program
- It is possible not all residential properties were surveyed
- It is possible that ACM insulation may present but was not detected during the survey
If you are worried about the possibility of loose ACM insulation in your home or you intend to purchase a property, it is recommended that you engage a licensed asbestos contractor to look specifically for evidence that the property has this form of loose insulation in it or has had loose ACM insulation removed. A competent contractor can provide you with professional advice in regards to the presence of this fibrous material and the steps required should you carry out any alteration or demolition works.
Important advice for homes in ACT built before 1985
Asbestos is a harmful material, but can be managed safely. Here are three important steps for managing ACMs in your house.
Step 1: Identify where ACMs may be in your house
In addition to exterior and interior cladding as well as roofing, fibrous materials are found in other parts of buildings. These include:
- Wood heaters insulations that include underneath hearths
- Kitchen splashbacks
- Vinyl floor tiles and their backing
- Wall tiles backing for bathroom sheets
- Imitation bricks used to clad buildings
- Roof capping, eaves linings and roof guttering
If your home was built after 1985, it is unlikely to contain ACMs. However, if your home was built after 1985, it is highly likely to contain fibrous materials. As a guide, the table below summarizes where you are likely to find ACMs in your house.
Common locations of ACMs in ACT houses (Results of Asbestos survey in 2005 of over 600 ACT homes)
Step 2: Identify the risk
Before handling ACM, it’s vital to know the kind of asbestos you are managing. Here are the distinctive sorts:
- Friable Fibre: This kind of ACM is in type of powder or can be collided with a powder structure by applying weight with your hand, particularly when dry.
- Non-Friable Fibre: This write incorporates a material that contains asbestos strands reinforced with a holding compound.
If you suspect the presence of ACMs in your house, you should visually check the condition of the ACMs; is it broken, cracked, etc.? If the suspected material is in good condition, you should leave it alone as it does not pose a health hazard. If the suspected material is damaged, you should arrange for repair or removal by a qualified person.
Step 3: Manage the risk
To manage ACMs safely, remember to check their condition regularly to make sure that they remain undisturbed and in good condition. When planning a renovation or demolition, always contact an expert to remove the fibrous materials safely from your house. Furthermore, you need to inform builders or tradespeople working on your house of the condition and location of any suspected ACMs.
For further advice or information on managing ACMs, you can visit the government website www.asbestos.act.gov.au
Asbestos Watch Canberra – Reliable and Competent Services for Asbestos Removal and Testing in Canberra
No part of asbestos removal and testing in Canberra should be undertaken by anyone except qualified and licensed removal companies. It is important to hire a competent and reliable contractor so that any traces of ACMs are removed in accordance with the strict regulations, without causing harm to human and the environment.
If you suspect that your residential or commercial properties contain ACMs, get in touch with Asbestos Watch Canberra today! We will connect you with A-class licensed contractors to handle your entire asbestos-related problems within residential, government, and commercial settings. They can handle all asbestos removal and testing projects regardless of the scope and complexity of the jobs.
Our endorsed removalists will remove the fibrous materials in your property and they will undertake all process in the best way possible. Whether it is your living space or business premises; our approved members have the necessary abilities, equipment, and experience to remove the hazardous material safely – at competitive costs.
A comprehensive range of services provided by our members
Our approved contractors aim to provide safe and efficient asbestos-related services at a value price. They can provide you with a broad range of services as follows:
- Asbestos removal: Removing all type of fibrous materials, whether friable or non-friable, within your property. They can also provide decontamination services such as giving you the advice to determine the most appropriate clean-up method.
- Asbestos testing: Pre-inspection, sampling, and testing by a qualified assessor via an accredited laboratory
- Asbestos roof removal: A thorough inspection of roofing materials, including repair and removal of your existing roof
- Asbestos management plan: Eliminating the risk of fibre exposure by developing a sound asbestos management plan
- Consultancy services: Independent review to assess the condition and presence of ACM within your building
- Air monitoring: Complete air monitoring after and before an asbestos removal and testing work
- Demolition: Conducting a demolition survey before renovation or refurbishment projects
- Soil remediation: Accurate and fast identification of contaminated soil
- Emergency repair: Removing all ACM products upon accidents or emergencies
There are no projects that are too large or difficult to be handled by our approved members. All you have to do is contacting one or more of our endorsed contractors with a clear description of your needs. Their team of specialists will attend to your site and access the condition of fibrous materials in your property- prompt and quickly.
When it comes to asbestos removal and testing, it is best to contact A-class licensed contractors through us. Call our members today to receive free quotes and competitive prices!
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