In its heyday asbestos was used in a lot of things. In automotive, shipbuilding and practically every area of construction, asbestos was being used because it had- and still has- plenty of desirable qualities. It’s heat and weather resistant, can withstand chemicals, and is excellent as insulation. It’s also abundant and easy to source, making it quite inexpensive.
Of course now we know that though this material seems useful in many areas, it really shouldn’t be used everywhere as it is very dangerous to our health. Since it’s already been used practically everywhere however, then there is always the possibility that it’s still present in our homes and buildings today. So how do you identify it?
This is a question that many homeowners often ask, and the simplest and surest answer really is to contact a professional NATA-accredited asbestos inspector and have them inspect and test the materials in your home for you. You really can’t be sure of the presence of asbestos in any other way.
If you insist on identifying asbestos yourself first however, there are ways you can do so safely.
Steps to Identifying Asbestos
There are a few things you need to know in order to determine whether or not your home or building still has asbestos in it. First, you need to know when your home or building was constructed. Australia banned the use or import of blue and brown asbestos or asbestos products in the mid-1980s, so if your home was built before then, chances are it still has asbestos materials in it. But even if it was built in later years, it may still have asbestos-containing materials in it. These materials may have been stored away or reused, and later used in the construction, addition or refurbishing of your home or building.
The next step to identify asbestos is to know where it’s commonly found. While they can be found in just about any part of a building, there are three common areas where asbestos can be found in a home:
- Bathrooms – as part of tiles or flooring, caulks and adhesives
- Basement – used around furnaces, boilers and hot water pipes for its heat resistance, and also for cement and duct work
- Attic – as insulation
Asbestos can also be found in different forms. It can be part of ceiling tiles or used as insulation; in shingles, cement sheets, pipes, coatings, adhesives, vinyl tiles, carpet underlay and many others.
What Does It Look Like?
Once you suspect your home of having asbestos-containing materials, the next thing you’ll want to know is what they look like, but frankly identifying asbestos by sight can be difficult. This is because asbestos is often mixed into other materials and can have different colours or the same colours as other, less harmful materials.
In nature, asbestos appear as long, thin, fibrous crystals and can have different colours: blue, brown, green and white. In construction materials however, they often cannot be readily seen until the material is damaged or disturbed in some way. Asbestos used as insulation once disturbed can appear fibrous (like fairy floss) and easily releases toxic fibres into the air.
If you’re fairly certain that you have asbestos inside your home or building, it’s important not to disturb these materials further and not to panic. There’s actually no immediate danger so long as these materials are not disturbed, and are in good condition. However, you must act fast to have these materials tested and removed, lest they become damaged and start to spread harmful asbestos.
Should you find yourself in this position, make sure to call Asbestos Check immediately. We’re NATA-certified and experienced in identifying, testing and removing asbestos and asbestos-containing materials safely from homes and buildings. For more information please call 02 9621 3706.