When it comes to asbestos removal, it’s important to understand everything involved in the process. This includes health risks, legalities and the procedure itself.
Due to all the health risks related to asbestos, DIY asbestos removal is strongly discouraged. In fact, in some Australian states, it is illegal for an unlicensed person to work with asbestos. In other states and territories, unlicensed persons are only allowed to handle asbestos given specific circumstances.
Regardless of differing state laws, it is recommended that you consult a licensed professional for any work involving asbestos. Getting the help of a specialist will ensure your own safety and of those around you.
So let’s have a look at why asbestos handling should be left to the professionals.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral composed of thin crystalline fibres. Each of these fibres is made up of microscopic fibrils.
Due to it being an excellent insulator, asbestos was commonly used in roofing, cement pipes, brake pads and textiles. However, in the 1970s, it was discovered that the mineral had adverse effects on the lungs. Despite this, some countries still used it as building material.
Per capita, Australia was one of the highest users of asbestos. It was commonly used from the 1940s through to the late 1980s. Because of this, many Australian houses built before the 1990s have a high chance of containing the asbestos products.
Asbestos fibrils can be released into the atmosphere and can end up in the human respiratory system. Inhaling fibrous asbestos can cause asbestosis, a lung disease caused by lodged asbestos dust in your alveoli (air sacs). Prolonged exposure to this type of dust will eventually cause scar tissue. This scarring then stiffens the lungs, limiting its ability to expand. Other symptoms of asbestosis include a tight chest, a persistent cough and clubbed fingers.
Exposure to asbestos dust can also cause malignant mesothelioma. This is a type of cancer that typically occurs on the thin surface tissues of organs. The fluid produced by the cancer affects the lungs’ ability to expand, making it difficult for the affected person to breathe. Those with mesothelioma might also experience chest pain, unusual fatigue, weight loss and a swollen abdomen.
These diseases often manifest many years after the initial exposure to asbestos. For asbestosis, symptoms can occur 10 years after being in contact with the mineral. For mesothelioma, it can be as long as 40 years.
Other diseases related to asbestos include pleural plaques and pneumothorax.
Friable asbestos is often what’s responsible for these health complications. Friable materials can be easily reduced to an inhalable powder even with relatively light handling. This is primarily the reason unlicensed individuals are discouraged from removing asbestos without professional help.
In the ACT, all processes that involve asbestos removal must be done by licensed professionals. However, in other Australian jurisdictions, unlicensed individuals are allowed to handle asbestos as long as it’s non-friable and the working area is no more than 10 square metres. Additionally, the non-licensed person must be trained, have relevant experience and own the proper tools.
It’s also important to note that, even if you meet the safety conditions, asbestos is still dangerous to human health. This is because non-friable asbestos can easily become friable through chemical degradation or burning.
Keep in mind that, as an unlicensed worker, most insurance providers will not help you with any costs relating to asbestos.
Check if there are government resources that can help you with the task. For example, in Australia, there are official government documents that help unlicensed individuals remove asbestos from their home or workplace.
If you want to do it yourself, you have to understand a few key points regarding the process:
- As an unlicensed person, you can use your own vehicle for transportation.
- You don’t need a waste transport certificate permit.
- You must package the asbestos correctly.
- Afterwards, you must transport the asbestos to a licensed landfill that can accept it.
After reading this blog, you should now be aware of the risks involved in asbestos removal. We highly recommend that you leave the task to trained and licensed professionals.
There is a reason why the use of this material was banned in Australia and many other countries. If you’re not careful, you or those around you can develop serious respiratory diseases. If you have an asbestos problem, it’s best to stay safe and contact an asbestos specialist.