Where are asbestos ceilings usually found in the home?
Asbestos ceilings are common in Sydney houses constructed between the 1950s and the 1980s. Asbestos ceilings were used because of their fireproofing and heat resistance properties. In houses, asbestos ceilings are most commonly found in bathrooms, laundries and garages as these are rooms where a fire may start unattended. Thus asbestos ceilings were used to reduce the risk of fire spreading through the ceiling. Verandah ceilings and asbestos eaves were also used to reduce the risk of fire spreading to adjoining properties.
What types of asbestos was used for ceilings ?
Asbestos ceilings can contain the three common asbestos types which include chysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos). There are several types of common asbestos ceilings that can be identified including:
- Asbestos Cement Sheet
- Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB)
- Asbestos Ceiling Tiles
- Sprayed insulation (vermiculite or popcorn asbestos ceiling
How can I tell if my ceiling contains asbestos ?
the only way you can definatively identify asbestos is to have a sample tested by viewing it under a microscope. If you suspect that you may have an asbestos ceiling we strongly recommend that a NATA accredited asbestos inspector collect a sample due to the potential health issues, particularly if the ceiling is friable.
When sampling the ceiling asbestos fibres will fall within your breathing zone posing a risk. Correct sampling techniques for asbestos ceilings include wetting the surface down, using drop sheets, wearing protective respiratory equipment and disposable overalls.
Health risks due to asbestos ceilings
The risk of asbestos related health issues will depend on whether the asbestos ceiling comprises bonded or friable asbestos, the condition of the material and the use and occupancy of the area. Bonded asbestos ceilings made of cement sheet and corrugated asbestos are generally quite stable when they are in good condition and are only cause for concern during renovations or major refurbishment.
However friable asbestos ceilings such as popcorn asbestos ceilings are potentially quite hazardous due to fibres that may be released from small amounts of disturbance. Other issues can arise with asbestos ceiling tiles in commercial buildings where contractors may be moving the asbestos panels to gain access to the ceiling. The edges of the panels can rub on the frames that hold them in place creating dust. This can increase over the years creating a significant hazard. Special precautions are required when accessing asbestos ceiling tiles and panels.