Mr Fluffy is well known in the asbestos industry throughout Canberra and the ACT for all the wrong reasons. Back in the 1970’s, Mr Fluffy was contracted to install insulation into over 1000 Canberra & ACT homes. This itself was not an issue until it was discovered that loose, sprayed asbestos insulation was used. Once discovered a cleanup initiative was introduced and the affected houses were cleared of asbestos, or were they?
The asbestos insulation remained in these homes anywhere from 10 years up to almost 20 years before it was removed; and much asbestos insulation still remains hidden in Canberra houses. Once the insulation was removed by the contractor, a clearance certificate was likely issued making many Canberra home owners believe that their houses were asbestos free; but due to the nature of the insulation it was and still is impossible to remove every single trace from these properties.
Mr Fluffy has been a regular news item in Canberra recently as it is reported that the ACT Government has sent out letters to known Mr Fluffy homes. It is understood that a warning has been issued that there may still be residual asbestos. It is recommended that these houses be checked to determine the extent of potential residual asbestos insulation.
Methods of Asbestos Investigation
There are a number of methods used to determine the extent of potential asbestos contamination in Canberra houses due to Mr Fluffy insulation. These asbestos inspection methods include air monitoring, dust sampling, smoke testing and the utilisation of a borescope.
Asbestos air monitoring can be undertaken to calculate the respirable fibre concentration in the air tat me be present. This method is good at determining the background respirable fibre concentration of the house but if the house is unoccupied when the testing is performed then fibres may not be disturbed to a significant level and is unlikely to provide a represented indication of the respirable fibre concentration during everyday normal activities. For this reason the actual asbestos exposure level may not be effectively determined. However the asbestos air monitoring method is not specific to asbestos respirable fibres and relates to all respirable fibres of a certain geometry, and therefore and cannot be used to determine if there is asbestos in the house.
Asbestos Testing Services by Safe Environments
Dust sampling is used to accurately identify if any asbestos is present in the location of the potential asbestos dust. For an entire Canberra house a high number of dust samples may be required to be taken to ensure that every area is covered including the ceiling and sub floor spaces, if possible. The most appropriate locations to sample are those which are on top of surfaces that are rarely disturbed where asbestos fibre build up is likely to occur.
Smoke testing involves filling the ceiling space with a non toxic smoke. The smoke test method is used not only as an indicator to the asbestos assessor as to the path that the Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation would likely have travelled, and where the build up may occur in certain cavities, but also shows the home owner the extent to which the asbestos contamination could have spread and how easily this could occurred.
Finally the borescope asbestos inspection method is used mainly to look into wall cavities without having to make a large hole in the wall to inspect. A borescope is a small camera, similar to that which a doctor may use to look at a person’s throat. The most common places in wall cavities the asbestos insulation has been found in Canberra houses is near power points as the insulation fallen down the holes made for the electrical cables in the ceiling space. The asbestos insulation itself has a distinctive appearance and this method can be used to identify contamination throughout the house.
A combination of these methods is best to determine if your house is contaminated as well as the risk of exposure to the occupants. Please contact Safe Environments for more information regarding potential Mr Fluffy Asbestos insulation in Canberra and the ACT.
Author: Stuart Lumsden
A Bachelor of Forensic Science in Applied Chemistry from the University of Technology, Sydney, Stuart is a Property Risk Assessor who specialises in the area of Asbestos and Hazardous Materials.