Asbestos - A brief history

For the longest time, asbestos was considered the wonder of the building world due to its high strength, durability, insulation qualities (heat and electricity). It had over 2500 applications.

This was until we figured out that the asbestos particles were dangerous to our health and could cause cancer. A third of houses in Australia and NZ built up until the 1980’s are thought to contain asbestos making it a very real health concern.

White asbestos is a mineral that comes from the Serpentine Group and is made up of just Chysotile ( a mineral ) whereas the other colours are made up of Anthophllite, Amosite, Tremolite, Actinolite and the most dangerous of all, the blue Asbestos which is made up of Crocidolite.

Asbestos becomes harmful when it’s particles get airborne. The easiest way for them to do so is when renovations, extensions or demolitions of a building are undertaken. This is why we recommend that you have your building tested before undertaking any of these activities.

What does Asbestos look like?

Here are some photos of what asbestos looks like. It is generally dark in colour but sometimes it can also be white, grey, brown or green. It can appear as either dense and compact or brittle and fibrous. It really does depend on the type of asbestos present - Friable or Non Friable. Hard and brittle asbestos is the worst for your health as the tiny fibres get airborne. You then inhale those particles, they get lodged in your lungs, irritate them and never leave and eventually lead to cancer.

Asbestos is found where moisture is an issue

Asbestos is most commonly found bonded to cement, be it in the walls or in a corrugated cement roof. It is also mostly found where the risk of moisture and leaks is high. This is because asbestos is a good insulator against moisture. This is why you should be looking in places such as the toilets, the laundry, walls, floors, roofs and even pipes that lead to the sewers.

Get a professional Asbestos inspector

Given that asbestos was so commonly used as a building material, it pays to check all building materials for asbestos content. Many times asbestos can be hiding in plain sight bonded to some other material. This is why we suggest testing any material that you are unsure of. If you can’t identify the materials yourself, you may wish to speak with a professional who can easily identify asbestos.

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