Asbestos is one sneaky, deadly substance.
It can cause a host of respiratory problems including lung cancer and mesotheliomia, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and chest wall. Its fibres spread in the air, almost invisible to the naked eye; and it disguises itself in common, everyday objects and materials. You could go decades without noticing its presence until it’s too late, and you’re already suffering from exposure to it.
Because it’s so well-embedded into everyday objects, asbestos is quite tricky to find. The only way you could ascertain its presence is through professional asbestos testing. What makes it even trickier is that it can be in the last place you expect. It’s easy to assume that asbestos can only be found in old houses and buildings, but they can actually be found in these unexpected places:
Schools are supposed to be safe places for our children to learn, so it’s difficult to think that they can be places where asbestos exposure is possible, but it is possible. In the late 1980s asbestos was so prevalent in U.S. schools that the government had to create a separate set of regulations in order to protect children and school employees from asbestos exposure. While most schools today are more vigilant in inspecting their buildings and keeping them free from asbestos-containing materials, asbestos may still remain in their ceiling tiles, vinyl flooring, and insulation around pipes and boilers.
Another unexpected place to find asbestos is in hospitals. Hospitals are supposed to be places where the sick can heal and not get sicker from asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, many hospitals in Australia are prone to asbestos as many were built prior to the 1980s, when asbestos was widely used in construction. Asbestos was often used in hospitals to prevent fires and keep medical equipment from overheating. Some of the common areas where asbestos may be found in hospitals include:
- Boiler houses and laundry areas where asbestos was used as insulation
- In cooling towers and underground service tunnels
- In ceiling cavities, fire doors and around electrical wiring
- In heating, ventilation and air-conditioning ducts
In 2014 several hospitals in Australia were found to be riddled with asbestos, including Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital and Westmead Hospital. Many other major hospitals in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth were also found to have significant amounts of asbestos in their underground tunnels and fire doors.
Shopping malls, grocery stores, movie theatres, restaurants and barbershops– these are all places that many of us frequent. With the huge number of people going in and out of these places daily, it’s easy to think that nothing harmful could be in them. However, asbestos can still be present in these buildings.
You might think that only the older of these establishments could possibly have asbestos-containing materials, but even the newer ones can have them in their vinyl tiles, cement piping and roofing materials. They could be in the soundproofing and curtains of movie theatres; the hair dryers and talcum powders of barbershops and salons; various construction materials in buildings; and in the insulation around pipes and boilers.
Many churches tend to be old, with their beautiful architecture still intact. However, along with their architecture some parts containing asbestos also remain, and pose a serious health threat.
Churches often used asbestos-containing materials for soundproofing and fire prevention. Asbestos insulation was also used for church organ blowers and bellows, as well as around boilers and steam pipes.
As much as you’d like to think otherwise, asbestos could also be present in your own home. Even if it is a new home, asbestos could still sneak in through many of today’s most common building materials: cement shingles, sheets and pipes, and roofing and flooring materials. In older homes, they can be found in hundreds more other construction materials, including:
- Attic insulation
- Roofing shingles and gutters
- Artex, a surface coating often used on ceilings
- Fibro sheeting in walls and ceilings
- Water drainage and plumbing fixtures
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Carpet underlay
- Kitchen splashbacks
- Electrical panels
To ensure your health and safety, it’s best to have asbestos testing done by a NATA accredited laboratory, and also leave the asbestos removal to the experts. Only they know how to remove asbestos as safely as possible.